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Remarks by President Obama after Meeting with African Leaders
Apr 2, 2013, 12:08
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For Immediate Release: March 28, 2013

Cabinet Room at 3:45 P.M. EDT


PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, it is a great pleasure to welcome four leaders from Africa, all of whom are doing extraordinary work President Sall from Senegal, President Banda from Malawi, President Koroma from Sierra Leone, and Prime Minister Neves from Cape Verde.


The reason that Im meeting with these four is they exemplify the progress that were seeing in Africa.  All of them have had to deal with some extraordinary challenges.  Sierra Leone just 10 years ago was in the midst of as brutal a civil war as weve ever seen.  And yet, now weve seen consecutive fair and free elections.  And under President Koromas leadership, weve seen not only good governance, but also significant economic growth.


President Obama flanked by President Banda & President Koroma at White House


When you talk about Malawi, there was a constitutional crisis just last year.  And yet, President Banda has not only been able to be in office and make sure that constitutional order was restored, but has also made significant progress on behalf of her people.  And her personal story of overcoming a history of abuse and leading women throughout her country I think indicates the kind of progress that can be made when youve got strong leadership.


The same is true for His Excellency President Sall. 


There were some bumps in the road in terms of transition from the previous President, and yet, the Senegalese rose up at the grassroots level and sustained their democracy.


President Obama is full of admiration as he taps a smiling President Koroma on the back. America is going through a tough economic period that has seen prolonged political misunderstandings over the proposed budget for the country whilst Sierra Leone remains a success story in terms of economic growth. Obama admires Koroma.


And Cape Verde is a real success story.  We were hearing from Prime Minister Neves about the fact that just in a few decades they have moved from a per capita income of maybe $200 a year to now $4,000 a year, and are now moving into the middle of the pack in terms of development levels because of good governance and management.


So what our discussion has focused on is, number one, how do we continue to build on strong democracies; how do we continue to build on transparency and accountability.  Because what weve learned over the last several decades is that when youve got good governance when you have democracies that work, sound management of public funds, transparency and accountability to the citizens that put leaders in place it turns out that that is not only good for the state and the functioning of government, its also good for economic development because it gives people confidence, it attracts business, it facilitates trade and commerce.


And all of these leaders have good stories to tell on that.  They recognize that theres still more work to be done, and so Im very pleased that all of them are looking to move forward on the Open Government Partnership that we helped to organize through the United Nations several years ago, and that we are now seeing countries from all across the world sign up for setting up international norms for accountability and transparency that can lead to good governance.


We also talked about the economic situation.  And all of us recognize that, although Africa has actually been growing faster than almost every other region of the world, it started from a low baseline and it still has a lot of work to do.  And that means building human capacity and improving education and job skills for rapidly growing and young populations.  It means improving access to energy and transportation sectors.  And so we discussed how the United States can continue to partner effectively with each of these countries.


And then we finally talked about young people generally and how we can mobilize the next generation of Africa leaders. And individuals like President Koroma have taken great interest in finding additional ways that we can recruit and engage young people not only to get involved in public service but also to get involved in entrepreneurship that helps build these countries.


And so my main message to each of these leaders is that the United States is going to be a strong partner, not based on the old model in which we are a donor and they are simply a recipient, but a new model thats based on partnership and recognizing that no continent has greater potential or greater upside than the continent of Africa if they in fact have the kind of strong leadership that these four individuals represent.


And we intend to continue to engage with them through a range of programs through the Millennium Challenge, through the USAID, through the PEPFAR programs but were also looking for new models that can potentially improve our bilateral relations even more.


The last point Id make we all discussed some of the regional challenges involved.  Obviously, economic development, prosperity doesnt happen if you have constant conflict.  And nobody knows that more than these individuals.  Some like President Koroma has seen that firsthand.


Now many of the threats are transnational.  Youve seen terrorism infiltrate into the region.  Weve seen drug cartels that are using West Africa in particular as a transit point.  All of this undermines some of the progress thats been made, and so the United States will continue to cooperate with each of these countries to try to find smart solutions so that they can build additional capacity and make sure that these cancers dont grow in their region.  And the United States intends to be a strong partner for that.


So I just want to say to each of them thank you for your extraordinary work.  You should know that you have a great friend in the United States, in the people of the United States, and in the President of the United States, because we believe that if youre successful, that ultimately will help us grow our economies and contribute to a more peaceful world, as well.  So thank you very much.


Thank you, guys.


#credit: White House website

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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