US-Africa relations

President Obama to host U.S.-Africa Summit

President Obama has invited African leaders for a summit in Washington D.C. from August 4-6 next week. More than 200 business and political leaders from both the U.S. and Africa will be attending the summit which will focus on the continent’s development and the U.S. role in partnership and investment.

Obama invited all African nations that are currently in good standing with the United States or are not suspended from the African Union. Leaders from Egypt, Madagascar, Sudan and Zimbabwe will not be attending.  Egypt, is not eligible to attend as it is currently suspended from the African Union.  There will also be no invitation for Sudan, whose president, Omar al-Bashir, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).  The United States has sanctions against the Zimbabwean government of Robert Mugabe and his key officials over human rights abuses, political intimidation of opposition parties and role back of democracy.

Guinea-Bissau and Madagascar will not be attending the summit as well. The U.S. has concerns over the subversion of democracy in both nations.

One notable inclusion is Kenya, where President Uhuru Kenyatta is currently awaiting a delayed trial at the ICC on charges related to violence after an election in 2007 that left 1,000 people dead.

A White House statement said the trip would “advance the administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa, and highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people.”

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker when speaking to the Wall Street Journal, said deals worth billions of dollars would be reached at the meeting, adding that more money would be advanced to Africa for various development projects.

First Lady Michelle Obama, and former First Lady Laura Bush and the Bush Institute, will host a day-long spouses’ symposium at the Kennedy Center focused on the impact of investments in education, health, and public-private partnerships as well.

Throughout his years in office, President Obama has held numerous conferences and events focusing on building partnerships and investment for African nations. This upcoming summit is a continuation of that policy.

More information about the event can be found at the White House’s website.

U.S. to support small businesses in Ghana through EXIM Bank

The U.S. will invest more in Ghana through the EXIM Bank.  The investments will be focused on small businesses and medium scale enterprises.

The Vice Chairman of the bank, Wanda Felton, at a discussion with Ghana’s President John Evans Atta Mills at the Castle, Osu in Accra on Tuesday, said the extension of the bank’s operation was as a result of the West African nation’s freindly business environment. It was also part of the bank’s long term plan for more economic co-operation with Africa announced by US President Barack Obama in 2009, she added. Felton pledged to woo US investors to support the Ghanaian economy by letting them know the enormous potentials that exist in the country. The vice chairperson of the Export and Import Bank further said the bank would support American business interests in the country through which it sought to expand its business co-operation with Ghana. Ghana’s President John Atta-Mills welcomed the move, saying Ghana was ready to partner genuine investors for mutual benefit. Mills stressed the need to take advantage of positive opportunities and cooperation to address the challenges of doing business among the nations The bank supported the construction of the country’s hydro electric power, the Akosombo Dam and had was supporting the energy sector for the last decade, through rural electrification and the Self Help Electrification Programme. About US$575 million has been invested into the energy sector, small and medium enterprises in the last decade. Other areas of target interest are agribusiness, trade and commerce.

U.S.-Ghana relations have really taken off since Barack Obama became President of the U.S. From his first visit to Ghana in 2009, using it as an example of African democracy, good governance and competency, relations continue on an upward positive track.  This has paid off as both nations come closer economically through trade and business as this is shown through this new agreement.

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Obama set to increase engagement with Africa in 2011

President has vowed to increase engagement with Africa this year.

President Barack Obama is quietly but strategically stepping up his outreach to Africa, using this year to increase his engagement with a continent that is personally meaningful to him and important to U.S. interests.

Expectations in Africa spiked after the election of an American president with a Kenyan father. But midway through his term, Obama’s agenda for Africa has taken a backseat to other foreign policy goals, such as winding down the Iraq war, fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and resetting relations with Russia.

Obama aides believe those issues are now on more solid footing, allowing the president to expand his international agenda. He will focus in Africa on good governance and supporting nations with strong democratic institutions.

Obama delivered that message on his only trip to Africa since taking office, an overnight stop in Ghana in 2009, where he was mobbed by cheering crowds. In a blunt speech before the Ghanaian parliament, Obama said democracy is the key to Africa’s long-term development.

“That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long,” Obama said. “That is the change that can unlock Africa’s potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans.”

The White House says Obama will travel to Africa again and the political calendar means the trip will almost certainly happen this year, before Obama has to spend more time on his re-election bid. No decision has been made on which countries Obama will visit, but deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said stops will reflect positive democratic models.

The administration is monitoring more than 30 elections expected across Africa this year, including critical contests in Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

“The U.S. is watching and we’re weighing in,” Rhodes said.

John Campbell, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, said the different elections give the Obama administration the opportunity to establish clear policies.

The administration “should be less willing to cut slack when those elections are less than free, fair and credible,” Campbell said.

The White House can send that message right now as it deals with the disputed election in Ivory Coast and an upcoming independence referendum in Sudan, which could split Africa’s largest country in two.

Rhodes said the president has invested significant “diplomatic capital” on Sudan, mentioning the referendum in nearly all of his conversations with the presidents of Russia and China, two countries which could wield influence over that Sudan’s government.

When Obama stopped in at a White House meeting last month of his national security advisers and United Nations ambassadors, the first topic he broached was Sudan, not Iran or North Korea. And as lawmakers on Capitol Hill neared the December vote on a new nuclear treaty with Russia, Obama called southern Sudan leader Salva Kiir by telephone to offer support for the referendum.

White House officials believe the postelection standoff in Ivory Coast could be the model for Obama’s stepped-up engagement in Africa.

The president tried to call incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo twice last month, from Air Force One as Obama returned from Afghanistan and then a week later. Neither call reached Gbagbo; administration officials believe the Ivorian leader sought to avoid contact. So Obama wrote Gbagbo a letter, offering him an international role if he stopped clinging to power and stepped down.

But Obama also made clear that the longer Gbagbo holds on, and the more complicit he becomes in violence across the country, the more limited his options become, said a senior administration official. The official insisted on anonymity to speak about administration strategy.

Human rights groups have accused Gbagbo’s security forces of abducting and killing hundreds of political opponents. The U.N. says it also has been barred entry from two suspected mass graves.

Rhodes said the White House understands that U.S. involvement in African politics can be viewed as meddling. But he said Obama can speak to African leaders with a unique level of candor, reflecting his personal connection to Africa and that his father and other family members have been affected by the corruption that plagues many countries there.

Officials also see increased political stability in Africa as good for long-term U.S. interests — a way to stem the growth of terrorism in east Africa and counterbalance China’s growing presence on the continent.

The U.S. was caught off guard during the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen when several African countries voted with China and not the U.S., the administration official said. The official said the administration must persuade African nations that their interests are better served by aligning with the U.S.

Given the recent events in Libya and Ivory Coast, more engagement diplomatically with Africa will be a high priority and issue for the reminder of this year.

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Actor Ben Affleck to testify before US Congress on humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo

US actor Ben Affleck attends a discussion with a panel of experts focused on what can be done to strengthen US foreign policy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Washington DC in 2010. Affleck will testify before a key US Congress committee next week on the humanitarian crisis in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Actor Ben Affleck will testify before a key US Congress committee next week on the humanitarian crisis in Democratic Republic of Congo, the panel’s chairman announced Friday.

Affleck, founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative advocacy organization, will appear Tuesday before the House Africa, Global Health and Human Rights Subcommittee, Republican Representative Chris Smith said in a statement.

The actor — who starred in “Armageddon” and “Pearl Harbor,” and won the best original screenplay Oscar for “Good Will Hunting” — will appear at a hearing entitled “The Democratic Republic of the Congo: Securing Peace in the Midst of Tragedy,” chaired by Smith.

Other witnesses will come from the US State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, the US Agency for International Development, as well as from non-governmental groups Catholic Relief Services and of The Enough Project.

“Our aim is to draw attention to this horrific, long-term crisis and the immense suffering taking place. The Congress and the world community must work together to bring hope and a better future to the DRC,” said Smith.

More information about the Eastern Congo Initiative advocacy organizationcan be found at the site.
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