Remarks to Mayors' Summit on Africa

January 28, 1998

(as prepared)

The road to stronger ties between Africa and the United States has never been clearer or more inviting than at this very moment. It must lead us to an understanding that a New Africa exists—and that the 700 million people of that continent are going to help us shape the 21st century.

For too many Americans, the image of Africa is trapped in the past, or at best reflects only a sliver of the present. TV images and news stories largely focus upon certain images—famine, war, degradation—taken from the complex diversity of this rich a nd complicated continent and the remarkable renaissance it is living. This President wants the real story of Africa to be known, and the United States must play a lead role in helping to write the next chapter. Not without blemishes and backwaters, this essentially is a good news story—for Africa, America and the world.

Consider how far Africa has come in just a decade. Ten years ago, Nelson Mandela was in jail, and apartheid appeared to be entrenched. Military dictators predominated across the continent, and Marxist leaders held sway in a few lonely outposts of the Cold War. Basic human rights were regularly trampled. Elections were nonexistent or routinely rigged.

Much has changed. Today, the old patterns of colonialism and despotism are giving way to a new era of more representative government, with democratic elections, vocal opposition parties and freer, more independent media. A new generation of leaders i s taking charge, and there is positive growth throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Countries like Uganda and Ethiopia, once divided, are experiencing economic revivals.

South Africa is overcoming its troubled history and emerging as a vital regional leader. Under the leadership of President Mandela, it has surged forward, opening its society while maintaining economic vitality; working to reconcile its past with its future; supporting international peacekeeping efforts, and promoting the welfare of neighboring countries. South Africa, Botswana, Benin, Ghana, Senegal, Mali—these places and many others embody the hope of the New Africa.

For all this promise, Africa is hardly free from turmoil. Genocide has decimated Rwanda, and refugee protection is under constant attack in central Africa. Civil war has wracked Sierra Leone and both Congos. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the overthrow of one dictator has not resulted in the elimination of human rights abuses. There is no effective democracy in Africa's most populous country, Nigeria. A recent election in Kenya brought allegations of fraud.

Pariah states like Libya and Sudan are exporting terrorism and transnational crime, and Sudan continues to destabilize its neighbors in East Africa. Poverty and illiteracy are problems in every country, and the scourge of AIDS is more severe in Africa than anywhere else on earth.

Much needs to be done. And the U.S. is uniquely poised to help Africa face these challenges—and fulfill its vast promise for a new era. Our ties to Africa are wide and deep. Millions of Americans trace their ancestry to Africa.

Since the creation of the Peace Corps, 57,518 Americans have gone to Africa, creating lifetime bonds from Addis Ababa to Zimbabwe. We currently have volunteers in 29 countries, and we are about to go into the thirtieth (Mozambique). As we speak, more and more American corporations and agencies are on the ground, providin g goods and services, and integrating Africa's enormous resources into the global economy.

The African Renaissance is and must remain an African phenomenon. We want the New Africa to draw strength from its partnership with the United States, but above all to become self-sustaining.

The President is pursuing a clear strategy to promote Africa's progress and advance American interests in Africa. To begin, we need expansive political engagement with Africa. In past years, that engagement has largely focused on crisis prevention an d resolution, dealing, sometimes spasmodically, with famines in Ethiopia or Somalia; genocide in Rwanda and Burundi, civil war in Liberia.

Now, the focus of our engagement must be to work with Africans to develop responsible governments, capable of surviving challenges and crises. Together, we need to deepen the roots of civil society—from safeguarding the environment to strengthening la w enforcement… from expanding education to improving health care… from promoting literacy to protecting human rights, particularly women's rights. We have been doing many of these things already. Recent elections we helped monitor in Ghana, Mali and Lib eria were encouraging, and we will help Senegal with upcoming elections this summer.

To allow democracy to take root, there must be better mechanisms for controlling conflict. One such initiative now in place supports African desires to solve regional problems: the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI). With support from the U.S . and other western donors, this effort will increase the peacekeeping capability of African nations and their ability to respond quickly to crises before they escalate.

Last December, Secretary Albright announced the Great Lakes Justice Initiative, which represents our best hope for solving the cycles of unpunished violence in central Africa. The initiative, with input from the nations involved, will make $30 million available to train police officials, rebuild legal and judicial machinery, and encourage reconciliation.

A key part of our strategy is the President's Partnership for Economic Growth and Opportunity in Africa—a sweeping plan for enhancing trade and business cooperation… offering debt relief and technical support… and carefully targeting assistance to coun tries that embrace reform, and initiatives that invest in human resources.

To accelerate this Partnership, you may have heard the President in his State of the Union address last night ask Congress to enact, hopefully early this year, the bipartisan Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.

This bill expands access to our markets, creates an Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa, amplifies infrastructure and equity investment, and gives impetus to many of the plans outlined in the President's Partnership. Countries that adopt so und reforms should benefit from doing business with us and the global community; countries like Sudan that undermine the stability of their neighbors should be denied these benefits.

And these benefits are not hard to figure out. For Africa, it means a chance to catch up in the global economy. For the U.S., it means jobs at home and abroad, and a higher share in Africa's growing prosperity. U.S. exports to Africa are growing— already, they exceed by 25% our exports to the former Soviet Union. But the y are only a fraction of what they could be if Africa was able to realize its full potential. If we double these exports, which now stand at about four and a half billion dollars, we can create 100,000 new jobs in the United States, and lift the economi c tide in Africa.

For all that government can and should do, the private sector is the best engine for driving trade and investment. We want to do all we can to support it.

In about eight weeks, the President will leave on a historic visit, the most ambitious trip to Africa ever taken by a President. It is a trip he has long anticipated. It culminates high-level visits over the past few years, from the late Secretary Br own and Secretary Albright to the First Lady and the Vice-President. On the continent, it offers a unique opportunity to send the message that Americans care deeply about Africans realizing their hopes. And here at home, it opens wide a window for the A merican people to see the diversity and vitality of Africa.

The time has come to place Africa on America's front burner. History hasn't offer many moments as compelling as the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990. But let's not simply focus on the big breakthroughs and overlook the painstaking day-to -day progress Africa has made, often in small increments, over the last ten years. It takes time for the seeds of democracy to grow, as we learn over and over again, from Bosnia to Latin America.

But the seeds are taking root in Africa—as we speak—and there has never been a better moment to nurture them. That is the long-term view and commitment of this administration. The message should be loud and clear: Africa matters to America. And it will matter more and more because of the partnerships we are building today.

This visit by an American President reflects, and hopefully supports, the efforts by many people, in and out of the administration, who have been working for years to cement a permanent relationship with this enormous, vibrant and dynamic part of the w orld. An unlimited horizon lies before us. It is time to seize the moment.

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