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US Committed to Helping Africa Through Partnership, Rice Says

Published date:
Tuesday, 06 June 2006
United States Department of State (Washington, DC

Both Americans and Africans prosper under conditions created by the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and therefore the United States stands committed to helping the people of Africa realize their aspirations through partnership, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pledged June 6 (Read a transcript of her speech here).

"Our policy toward Africa is rooted in partnership, not paternalism, in doing things with the peoples of Africa, not for the peoples of Africa," Rice said, opening the fifth annual AGOA Forum.

Rice called AGOA a "keystone" in America's approach to Africa, "which represents America's strong bipartisan support for Africa's development and prosperity."

AGOA, she told the officials assembled from 37 AGOA-eligible nations, is founded on irrefutable facts on how to fight poverty effectively. "It is a fact that real development is only possible when economies are expanding and creating jobs. It is a fact that economic growth is driven by hardworking, entrepreneurial citizens who are free to compete and trade in open markets. And, of course, though the state cannot create economic growth, it is a fact that the government can and must ensure the political conditions of prosperity, transparent and accountable governance, the rule of law, property rights and investment in people."

As a direct result of AGOA, she said, the United States and Africa are prospering together. "The United States remains Africa's great partner in trade and assistance," she told her audience that had gathered under the theme "The Private Sector and Trade: Powering Africa's Growth."

AGOA provides duty-free access to a wide range of more than 6,400 items -- including textile products -- into the U.S. market for African nations willing to reform their economies along free-market lines. The landmark trade legislation -- the first of its kind with Africa -- was passed by Congress in 2000 and since has been updated and renewed.

While oil remains the source of an expanding U.S.-Africa trade relationship, Rice said that "impressive growth" also has taken place in the areas of agriculture, machinery and electronics.

Trade gains also have been driven in part by the African Global Competitiveness Initiative, she said, a $200 million program, announced by President Bush at the July 2005 AGOA Forum held in Dakar, Senegal, that is helping African companies reach their full potential. (See related article.)

Rice then cited the example of Kanana Knitters in kenya. "Because of AGOA and our African Global Competitiveness Initiative, Kenana Knitters has won deals to export its wool and apparel to several high-end American clothing companies. In just two years, ... the business has more than doubled its work force, all of whom are women," Rice said.

Expanding Opportunity and Benefits from Trade

To expand the opportunities and benefits of trade even further, she said both the United States and African governments have important obligations. "For our part, President Bush made bold commitments last September to eliminate all U.S. barriers that prohibit the free flow of goods and services as long as other nations do the same. This is a promise that we aim to keep," she said.

In the current Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations, Rice added, the United States is at the forefront of a worldwide effort to increase market access for developing-country products, including agricultural goods. "We in Washington must also do more to help African farmers expand their exports by increasing their capacity to meet U.S. agricultural standards," she added.

While the United States has "made good progress on this front," she said, "African governments also have important obligations if they are to fully liberate the entrepreneurial spirit of their people.

"In most African countries, ambitious citizens still pay too many fees and wait too many days and negotiate too much red tape to start a business. African governments must also do more to enable their countries to trade with their neighbors. Seventy percent of all trade in the developing world is between developing countries. So helping Africans trade more freely together represents a powerful source of development."

Additionally, she said, it is imperative that African countries continue diversifying their economies.

Increase in US Development Aid

In the past five years, with strong support from the United States Congress, President Bush has tripled foreign assistance to the countries of Africa and is on pace to double it again by the year 2010, Rice said.

In 2000, the United States provided $1.1 billion in aid to sub-Saharan Africa. In 2006, the United States will provide $3.3 billion.

The United States, she added, has also taken historic steps to free many developing countries -- most of which are in Africa -- from the crushing burden of foreign debt. Under the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative, 14 African countries are now receiving more than $30 billion of debt relief, Rice said, adding that the United States hopes to extend the initiative to 19 other African countries, forgiving more than $10 billion of additional debt.

At the same time, the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) now is signing development compacts with countries that govern justly, advance economic freedom, fight corruption and invest in their people, she said.

Currently 12 African countries are eligible to apply for MCC grants and three African countries: Madagascar, Benin and Cape Verde, have signed compacts with the MCC worth a total of nearly $527 million, she added.

Rice told the ministers that the United States rightfully is standing with the people of Africa in their fight against diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS. President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), she added, is on pace to meet its five-year, $15 billion commitment for prevention, treatment and care.

"The path to defeat AIDS will be long," she said, "but each step along the way represents one more person who understands the threat, one more orphan who finds a home and one more individual who can live with the disease."

The secretary said the United States does not view Africa as the sum of its problems nor as an object of international pity. "No. We view the men and women of Africa as authors of their own destiny, as individuals of agency and dignity who have the right to flourish in freedom and who bear responsibility for their own successes. We believe that this success rests in the strength and the spirit of African citizens and we reject what President Bush has called the 'soft bigotry of low expectations.'"

The Fifth Annual AGOA Forum, June 6-7, is being held in conjunction with two other AGOA Forums, one on the private sector and the other on civil society.

Read a transcript of her speech here.

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