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Transcript of Condoleezza Rice's Address to the AGOA Forum

Published date:
Thursday, 08 June 2006
US Department of State

Secretary Rice: Thank you very much. Since Jendayi told you something about me that you might not know, I have to tell you something about Jendayi that you might not know. Jendayi, in fact, was my student at Stanford University when she was a sophomore. And she was sitting in the back of the class and she already had a strong interest in Africa and over the years I want to say that I've learned more about Africa from her than probably she has from me. Jendayi, thank you for your leadership. (Applause.)

Unless you think that this connection ends with Jendayi, I want to just recognize Dr. Cindy Courville, who is the NSC Special Assistant and there's a connection there, too, because Cindy and I were classmates at the University of Denver. So you see I've had very, very strong training about Africa all my life.

Well, welcome everyone to the State Department. It's a great pleasure to have you here in Washington for this year's Forum for the African Growth and Opportunity Act. I'd like to welcome the many African ministers, who are joining us today, especially Foreign Minister Gadio of Senegal. I know I speak for everyone here, Mr. Minister, when I say how much we enjoyed last year's Dakar forum and how much we appreciated the hospitality and the generosity of the people of Senegal.

On behalf of President Bush and all of the American people, let me express my deep gratitude to all who have made the long journey from Africa to join us here today. You carry with you the hopes and dreams of millions of men and women and children from every corner of the African Continent. People who simply want to better their own lives build their own prosperity and take ownership of their own development. America shares and supports your aspirations and we are committed to helping you realize them. Our policy toward Africa is rooted in partnership not in paternalism, in doing things with the peoples of Africa not for the peoples of Africa. A keystone of our approach is this African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, which represents America's strong bipartisan support for Africa's development and prosperity.

AGOA is founded on irrefutable facts about 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.

Secretary Rice addresses the opening plenary session of the African Growth and Opportunity Act [AGOA] Forum. These are the requirements for membership in AGOA, requirements that have been met by the 37 sub-Saharan African countries who are gathered here today. As a result of AGOA, the United States and Africa are prospering together. The United States remains Africa's great partner in trade and in assistance. While oil remains a source of our expanding trade relationship, last year we also saw impressive growth in sectors like agriculture and machinery and electronics. These gains were driven in part by our African Global Competitiveness Initiative, a $200 million program which President Bush announced last year to help African companies reach their full potential through free trade.

One such company from Kenya is called Kenana Knitters. 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 workforce, all of whom are women. Now to expand the opportunities and benefits of trade even further, we both 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 others' nations do the same. This is a promise that we aim to keep.

In the current Doha round, being negotiated as we speak, 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. We've made good progress on this front frequently -- recently and we are determined to expand our efforts even further.

African Governments also have important obligations in order 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.

Finally, it is vital for African nations to continue diversifying their economies. The AGOA Diversification Fund which we launched last year is beginning to help our African partners make steady gains toward the important development in this goal. Increasing free trade is a great challenge indeed. But it is not our only challenge. As a matter of justice of morality and of strategic interest, we must help all citizens, especially the most disadvantaged, to gain an equal opportunity to participate in growing economies. This is the job of foreign assistance. And under President Bush's leadership America has launched a development agenda with Africa that is the worthy heir of the Marshall Plan for Europe.

In the past five years with strong support from our Congress, President Bush has tripled foreign assistance to the countries of Africa and we are on pace to double it again by the year 2010.

I imagine that most of you knew Randall Tobias as our Global AIDS Coordinator. Now he is our new administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as our new director of foreign assistance here at the State Department. And I'm pleased that he could join us here this morning. (Applause.)

The United States 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, which the United States worked tirelessly to secure, 14 African countries are now receiving over $30 billion of debt relief. Our ultimate goal is to extend this initiative to 19 other African countries in Africa, forgiving more than $10 billion of additional debt.

At the same time, our Millennium Challenge Corporation is now signing development compacts with countries that govern justly, advance economic freedom, fight corruption and invest in their people. Right now 12 African countries are eligible to apply for MCC grants and four African countries, Madagascar, Benin, Cape Verde and Mali have signed compacts with the MCC worth a total of nearly $537 million.

Finally, the United States is rightfully standing with the people of African in their fight against diseases like Malaria and HIV/AIDS. Now in its third year, President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS relief is on pace to meet our five-year, $5 billion commitment for prevention, treatment and care. The path to defeat AIDS will be long, 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.

Ladies and gentlemen, 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."

Africa has given so much to America -- more than anyone. It was the stolen sons and daughters of Africa who lifted up the body of America, brick by brick, field by field, city by city. More than anyone, it was the quiet righteousness of African Americans, men and women like my parents and my grandparents, sons and daughters of the American South who helped to redeem America at last from its original sin of slavery. (Applause.)

America will never, America cannot forget the deep historical ties that bind us to the peoples of Africa. And we are committed to building a shared future of hope and opportunity and freedom for all.

Thank you for making the trip here to Washington. Thank you for participating in this important forum. And I look forward to seeing you all again next year.

Thank you.

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