Remarks by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice “Africa and America: Partners in a Shared Future”
Remarks by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice
“Africa and America: Partners in a Shared Future”
at the United State Institute of Peace, Washington, DC
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Good morning, everyone. Thank you Kristin for that very generous introduction. And thank you all for being here. In particular I want to acknowledge and thank members of the African diplomatic corps for being here. And it’s wonderful to see so many friends and colleagues and folks that I’ve been honored to work with over many years. I want to thank the team—everyone here—at USIP, not only Kristin, but David Smock, so many of my friends and former colleagues in government, including Johnnie Carson, Princeton Lyman, George Moose, for all you have contributed to making this Africa Leaders Summit next week the historic event that we look forward to. Kristin, as you said, we’re at t-minus five days, and we’re all working flat out to make this Summit a great success.
As you know, these days there’s no shortage of demands on President Obama and our national security team. We’re addressing complex challenges from Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine, and the conflict in Gaza, to the violence in Iraq and Syria. In every instance, the United States is at the center of international coalitions that are working to advance peace and security. But we are acting with equal energy and determination to seize opportunities for progress—including in Africa.
There’s long-standing, bipartisan support for strengthening America’s partnership with Africa. Africa is a region where we can improve lives and raise incomes for Americans and Africans alike—if we commit to working together. So, as we look ahead to the Summit next week, and to the future of our partnership with Africa, I want to highlight what we’re working to accomplish.
Let me begin by underscoring, as many of you know well, that today’s Africa is not at all the same place it was when I served as Assistant Secretary of State during the Clinton Administration. In less than 20 years, in the space of one generation—even as major challenges remain—Africa has witnessed remarkable change.
Back then, Sierra Leone was locked in a decade-long civil war with rebels hacking off limbs and abducting UN peacekeepers. Today, Sierra Leone still faces great challenges, not least Ebola, but it is also contributing, now, peacekeepers to missions of the United Nations and the African Union. And, last March, President Koroma decided Sierra Leone would join the Open Government Partnership. That’s one generation of change.
Back then, close to 60 percent of Africa’s population lived on less than $1.25 a day. Too many still live in poverty, but that number has now dropped below 50 percent. And, Africa is home to 6 of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world, an emergent middle class, and robust markets for foreign direct investment. That’s one generation of change.
In 2000, AIDS was ravaging Africa, and every projection showed the disease growing and spreading exponentially. But through PEPFAR—where President Obama has been able to build on an historic foundation laid by President Bush—the United States and our partners, together have broken that curve. We modernized our approach to match Africa’s progress, and today, we’re setting our sights on ending the scourge of AIDS. That’s one generation of change.
We can measure Africa’s progress along any number of dimensions, but one of my favorites is the attitudes and ambition of the young Africans who grew up in this era of transformation. I’m very much looking forward to meeting with many of them later today: 500 young public servants, entrepreneurs, and activists from across Africa, every African country, who are part of the inaugural class of Mandela Washington Fellows—the exchange program that President Obama launched last year in Soweto. For my money, the commitment of these young people is the best indicator of Africa’s progress and the most reliable predictor of Africa’s success.
The United States has enduring connections to people and partners across Africa, earned through decades of friendship and investment in one another. Africa also has strong ties with other regions and nations, but America’s engagement with Africa is fundamentally different. We don’t see Africa as a pipeline to extract vital resources, nor as a funnel for charity. The continent is a dynamic region of boundless possibility and, as President Obama said in Cape Town last year, we’re building “a partnership of equals that focuses on your capacity to solve problems, and your capacity to grow.”
Those are two important ideas—capacity and equality. By capacity, we mean Africa’s ability to ultimately provide fully for its own needs, without being dependent on assistance. We want Africa to create its own jobs, to feed itself, to care for the health of its people, and to prevent and resolve conflicts. Above all, we want to help Africa build the human capital that is so crucial to its future—and that’s what our young leaders initiative is all about. That benefits us all. When one billion Africans can live in greater prosperity, security, freedom, and dignity, America is better off.
The second key is equality. Obviously there are differences of resources and strengths both among African countries and between Africa and the United States, but an equal partnership means we deal with one another with mutual respect. We meet our commitments to one another. We work through differences together. Most importantly, equal partners tell each other the truth, even when we may not want to hear it.
So, as long-standing friends, it’s important that we speak to one another candidly. For all that Africa has achieved, progress has not come fast enough nor spread far enough. Discrimination and habits of corruption still undermine many countries’ ability to govern effectively. Some nations hold themselves up as global leaders on certain issues while insisting on lower expectations for Africa on other issues. But, leaders can’t pick and choose among the responsibilities that come with being full players in the community of nations. Leaders must lead—especially on difficult issues—and protecting the human rights of all their people—regardless of religion, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation—is a government’s first duty.
Of course, this truth-telling goes both ways. The United States can also do better. We have much more work to do to change outdated mindsets in which Africa is often marginalized. Too many Americans still only see conflict, disease and poverty, and not the extraordinarily diverse Africa, brimming with innovation that’s driving its own development. We need to acknowledge that African economies are already taking off, and that the United States can do more to compete to be a full partner in Africa’s success.
So, this is the moment to take our partnership to the next level.
And that’s why President Obama is hosting this historic Summit. Nearly 50 African Presidents and Prime Ministers are scheduled to attend. We’ll be joined by leaders from civil society, faith communities, and the private sector.
We’ve deliberately focused the summit beyond the crises of the moment to envision the future we want and how we can work together to achieve critical goals—10 and 15 years from now. We’re focused on three major priorities: investing in Africa’s future, advancing peace and stability, and governing for the next generation.
First, President Obama and African leaders will expand the trade and commerce that creates jobs in all our countries. That’s what the President’s Doing Business in Africa campaign is all about—making it easier for American companies to invest in African businesses. It’s why President Obama launched our Trade Africa initiative to boost regional trade within Africa while expanding Africa’s economic ties with the rest of the world. That’s why Secretary Penny Pritzker led a delegation of American companies to Ghana and Nigeria in May. And, that’s why we’re dedicating a full day of the Summit to the U.S.-Africa Business Forum. These efforts will lead to concrete progress – increased trade, more investment, deals that will support African growth and American and African jobs.
With our partners in every region, we’re building broad-based economic capacity. As part of this, President Obama will work with Congress to achieve a seamless, long-term renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act and to make it more effective.
Sometimes it’s easier for African nations to trade with Europe or even the United States than with their nearest neighbors, so we want to break down barriers that stymie regional trade. Since 2009, we’ve worked with public and private sector partners in Africa to reduce long wait times at their borders and to coordinate customs procedures. It used to take three days for goods to cross the border between Kenya and Uganda. Now it takes three hours—a time savings worth about $70 million a year. We’re utilizing Trade Hubs to improve border management and to help African firms compete in the international market.
And one of the best ways we can support business across Africa is by expanding access to electricity. That is the impetus behind President Obama’s signature Power Africa initiative, which is working with partners to double access to electricity and bring at least 20 million more households on to the grid across sub-Saharan Africa. With more than $9 billion in initial commitments from the private sector—and much more coming—we’re developing new sources of energy and enabling rural communities to plug into the global economy. And at the Summit, we will build on that progress, so that Power Africa becomes a lasting legacy for the United States on the African continent.
Of course, it’s hard to build a business if you’re struggling to feed your family or if you’re too sick to work. While Africa is no longer home to the majority of the world’s poor, economic privation is still deeply entrenched. And, critical to building Africa’s capacity for trade is investment in Africa’s development.
Rather than dictating outcomes, we recognize that Africa’s future will be determined by its own people. So, we’ve built our development programs around African leadership. Our focus on agricultural development stems from the African Union’s commitment to make food security a continent-wide priority. It’s not enough to react to crises—the latest drought or famine. We must break the cycle of hunger and poverty. And that’s why Feed the Future works directly with smallholder farmers to make sure people can feed themselves, by increasing crop yields and raising incomes. In the past two years, the New Alliance for Food Security and the Grow Africa partnership have helped more than 2.5 million farmers in ten African countries.
We’re taking the same approach to global health. We’re not just distributing medications and administering vaccines; together, we’re developing comprehensive health systems and strengthening nations’ ability to care for their own people. We’re reducing deaths from preventable diseases and improving outcomes, particularly in maternal health and child health. And, thanks to the historic commitments we continue to make, we are approaching the day when we can herald an AIDS-free generation.
The second key issue on the Summit agenda next week is how we can advance peace and regional stability. Here, progress has been particularly uneven. We’ve seen significant improvements in places like Liberia and Angola, but in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Sudan and South Sudan, violence and conflict have become entrenched. In Somalia and Mali, weak governance and extremism have enabled terrorist groups to take root.
Contrary to some claims, the United States is not looking to militarize Africa or maintain a permanent military presence. But we are committed to helping our partners confront transnational threats to our shared security. I say this as the person who got the 4 am phone call 16 years ago when al-Qaeda bombed our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Today, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is controlling parts of Mali, Boko Haram bombs markets and kidnaps young girls, and al-Shabaab terrorizes a shopping mall in Nairobi. That is why we are stepping up our efforts to train peacekeepers who are professional and effective forces who can secure the region, and by extension the global community, against terrorist threats, and against threats that derive from conflict.
For example, the African Union Mission in Somalia has weakened al-Shabaab and created the conditions for Somalia’s nascent government to operate. African nations provide AMISOM’s troops, while the United States and other international partners help with training, equipment, and salaries. We’re also supporting African Union forces working to root out the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and Central Africa. Between 2010 and 2013, our cooperation has brought about a 75 percent drop in the number of deaths caused by the LRA and a 50 percent drop in abductions.
Since President Obama took office, the United States has contributed close to $9 billion to United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa. Since 2005, the United States has trained almost a quarter of a million peacekeepers from 25 different African countries. More capable peacekeepers are now deployed across the continent. Rwandans, for example, who 20 years ago suffered a terrible failure of UN peacekeeping, are today among the largest and most respected contributors. And, we’re committed to making sure that African peacekeepers have the capacity to deploy quickly when conflict erupts in order to save lives and help avoid costlier international interventions down the line. And that will be a major focus of our discussions next week – an area where America will continue to increase our commitment in the months and years ahead.
Of course, true peace and security stem from a deeper place. People need to feel safe in their homes, confident that they won’t be targeted or victimized by corrupt systems. And that’s why we’re also partnering with African courts and legal systems and police departments to strengthen the rule of law and ensure justice is available for all.
And that brings me to the third major issue on next week’s Summit agenda: governing for the next generation. In the past ten years, 15 new democracies in every region have taken root in Africa. Earlier this year, Tunisia, for example, adopted a new constitution that enshrines core rights for women and upholds an inclusive political process. But, we’ve also seen countries backslide towards autocracy. The United States cannot and does not try to dictate the choices of other nations, but we are unabashed in our support for democracy and human rights. We will continue to invest in promoting democracy in Africa, as elsewhere, because, over the long-term, democracies are more stable, more peaceful, and they’re better able to provide for their citizens.
But the reality is, in President Obama’s words, “across Africa, the same institutions that should be the backbone of democracy can all too often be infected with the rot of corruption.” This is something the people of Africa know they must tackle head on—calling their governments to account and refusing to tolerate kleptocrats. And, wherever Africans stand up to demand change, the United States will be there, backing their efforts.
We’re supporting strong institutions that facilitate the peaceful transfer of power. So far, eight African nations have joined the Open Government Partnership, pledging to promote greater transparency and accountability. We are developing strategies to support civil society, particularly in areas where the space is closing for citizens to take action. We’re working with partners across the continent to strengthen protections for women, minorities, and members of the LGBT community, because countries do better when they protect human rights and harness the talents of all their people.
A major manifestation of our long-term commitment to Africa’s future is the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative.
This initiative has struck a chord in Africa, which is home to some of the largest “youth bulges” in the world, and is brimming with talented young people. Building on the success of this initiative to date, President Obama announced earlier this week that we’re creating four new Regional Leadership Centers to provide training, support for entrepreneurs, and regional networking opportunities in Senegal, Ghana, South Africa and Kenya.
Through the YALI Network, we’re connecting young leaders with one another and with opportunities here in the United States. And, over the next two years, we’re going to double the size of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Program so that 1,000 young leaders every year can come to the United States, develop their skills, build networks, and then return home and contribute their talents to moving Africa forward.
Leaders like James Makini of Kenya. James is with us here today. Let me tell you his story.
When he was just 8 years old, James’ grandmother gave him a chicken. Pretty soon, he was selling the eggs, earning money to pay for school uniforms and help rebuild his family’s hut. That’s how he got the idea for the One Hen Campaign—if he could do it, he thought, so could other rural Kenyans. In the past three years, James has helped provide 50,000 women with chickens, generating more than $3 million for those women and their families.
But James isn’t stopping there. As a Mandela Washington Fellow, he’s gaining tools and a network that will help him take his work to the next level and expand the One Hen Campaign across Africa. James you and your colleagues in the Mandela Washington Fellows Program make us proud—and they inspire us to nurture and deepen the commitment between the United States and Africa. I want to thank all of you. Just one generation of change can mean so much. We’ve seen it. But, like James, we can’t rest on what we’ve achieved. We’ve got to keep working for progress, shaping change in the right direction.
And that’s what the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit is all about—an opportunity to recommit to ending extreme poverty and reaching the day when families don’t worry about where their next meal is coming from; it’s a chance to boost ties of trade and investment, even as we ensure the benefits are more broadly shared; it’s a moment to redouble our joint efforts to end violence where it has haunted Africa for too long.
That’s what America is all about – we’re about an equal partnership with Africa; one that builds African capacity, because we understand that Africa’s success is in our common interest. And 10 or 15 years from now, I’m confident that we’ll be able to look back on this Summit as a pivotal point.
Across a vast and energetic continent—from the northern sands of Morocco to the Maasai Mara in the east to the tropical forests of Madagascar—Africans are already seizing historic opportunities. So, as we prepare to host this unprecedented gathering of leaders, we want the people of Africa to know that the United States stands ready to join with you. We share your vision of a future that is more prosperous, more equal, and more free—a future that can be defined by the limitless potential of what Africa and America can achieve together, as equal partners.
Thank you all very very much.