Obama to Highlight Trade, Democracy in Africa Visit

While in South Africa, President Obama will be visiting Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid leaders were imprisoned.
While in South Africa, President Obama will be visiting Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid leaders were imprisoned.

By Stephen Kaufman
IIP Staff Writer
Washington,
June 24, 2013

President Obama’s second visit to sub-Saharan Africa will take him to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania June 26–July 3, where he will encourage greater U.S. trade and investment links with the continent, as well as the strengthening of African democratic institutions.

Speaking in a June 23 conference call, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said Africa is “one of the most important emerging regions of the world,” and a place of “extraordinary potential.”

“When we look back 20 years from now, 30 years from now, we’ll see this potentially as a pivotal moment when Africa took off in terms of economic growth.”

Joining Rhodes on the call were White House Senior Director for African Affairs Grant Harris and White House Senior Director for Development and Democracy Gayle Smith.

Obama’s focus on strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law is tied to Africa’s economic future, Rhodes said.

“It’s critical to Africa’s economic growth, because where you have clear rules of the road and efforts to combat corruption, businesses will invest, and jobs will be created, and growth will take off,” he said.

During Obama’s stay in Senegal, he is expected to visit Goree Island and its museum, which serve as a monument and memorial to millions of Africans who were enslaved and transported to the Western Hemisphere from the 16th through the 19th centuries. Rhodes said Obama also plans to attend a food security event in the country that will show technologies being used to improve the ability of African agricultural sectors to meet the needs of their people.

In South Africa, the president will speak to young Africans at a University of Johannesburg town hall meeting, visit a community center with Archbishop Desmond Tutu to see local solutions to health care challenges, and visit Robben Island, where former South African President Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid leaders were imprisoned.

Rhodes said that at the University of Cape Town, Obama will “lay out a vision for U.S.-African relations going forward” by making “his main framing speech of the trip about our Africa policy, focusing on these different areas of trade and investment, development, democracy, partnerships on behalf of peace and security.”

At his final stop in Tanzania, the president will visit the Ubungo power plant and speak about U.S. support for African economic growth, as well as visit the memorial to the 1998 terrorist attack that targeted the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam, Rhodes said.

Harris said the challenge of Africa’s development and economic growth is ensuring that the benefits from both are spread to all of its people.

“On that front, we’re redoubling our efforts to create an environment that enables greater trade and investment. This includes encouraging things like regional integration and legal reforms that break down barriers to the free flow of goods and services. It gets at also the need for greater transparency in anti-corruption measures,” he said.

According to Smith, Obama will also be profiling the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition that the United States launched with African leaders and the Group of Eight (G8) countries in 2012 to promote food security.

The program is “built on the premise that if we can combine some reforms on the African side with some really targeted, strategic assistance on our side, we can leverage private capital flows into agriculture,” she said.

Less than a year after its launch, the initiative has expanded from three to nine countries, with over $3.5 billion in letters of intent of private-sector commitments to invest in agriculture. Smith added that a 10th country will be joining the initiative in September.

Rhodes said the United States brings “a unique type of engagement to Africa,” recognizing that the continent does not need handouts of assistance, but trade and economic growth that will allow the continent to build its own capacity for increased prosperity.

“The things that are really going to unleash growth on the continent is not an assistance program, per se, but rather the types of partnerships that we’ve been pursuing in areas like food security, for instance, that enable economic growth, that enable a broader base of people coming out of poverty; that enhance trade between Africa and the United States, but also within African countries and within the continent,” he said.