U.S.–Africa Summit opens in Washington
The United States-Africa Leaders Summit opened yesterday in Washington, D.C. and will end tomorrow.
Bringing together nearly 50 leaders from across Africa, it is being hailed by the White House as “the largest event any U.S. President has held with African heads of state and government”.
Ben Rhodes, the White House Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications, spoke during a teleconference on the rationale for hosting the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.
He said: “We chose to do this summit to send a very clear signal that we are elevating our engagement with Africa. We see enormous opportunities in Africa as it continues to advance its economic development and continues to develop capabilities as African countries continue to develop their capabilities as security partners of the United States and as democratic partners of the United States.”
The theme of the three-day summit is: Investing in the Next Generation.
That future-oriented view reflects, said Rhodes, “our focus on African capacity-building and integrating Africa into the global economy and security order”.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry convened yesterday the “Civil Society Forum” at the National Academy of Sciences to discuss the role of civil society in Africa.
In his opening remarks, Kerry said the summit seeks to support the “empowerment of people, through their government, through their civil society” and noted that “we need to invest in relationships with not just those who are in charge today, but those who are pushing for change”.
Lagos lawyer Mr. Femi Falana has urged African Heads of State and Governments to challenge the alleged manipulation of the continent’s economy by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank as a summit of the United States (U.S) and African leaders opened in Washington, DC, this week.
American President Barack Obama is expected to host the summit, which focuses mainly on trade and investment in Africa. The theme of the summit is: Investing in the Next Generation. A number of signatures and side events have been organised to acknowledge the role of civil society, women and youth in the development of Africa.
Forty African Heads of Governments are in Washington, DC for the summit.
As part of the run-up to the summit, 15 civil society organisations (CSOs) from Africa, in an open letter on August 1 by Pamela Timburwa and addressed to the U.S. and Heads of African State and Governments, urged the leaders “to ensure that serious consideration is given and firm commitments are made to ensure an enabling environment for the participation of civil society, women and youth in Africa’s development”.
The 15 CSOs include Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA), Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Africa Regional Program, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Lawyers for Human Rights, Regional office; Liga Moçambicana dos Direitos Humanos (LDH), Mozambique, Liga Guineense dos Direitos Humanos (LGDH), Guinea Bissau.
Others are: Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA); Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC), South Africa; Swaziland Coalition for Concerned Civic Organisations, Swaziland; Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA), Malawi; Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA), Mozambique; Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA), Regional office and Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), Zimbabwe.
Reacting to the letter, which was copied to him by Ms Timburwa, the Lagos lawyer disagreed with the issues tabled by the civil societies before U.S. and Heads of African State and Governments.
The activist said the letter was silent on the economic system in the 54 member-states in Africa.
He said the African Union (AU) and the regional economic groupings had not addressed the empowerment of Africans, adding that without addressing unemployment, poverty and insecurity, majority of Africans cannot enjoy any human right.
Falana said: “Africa must challenge the manipulation of the economy of the continent by the IMF and the World Banký. The lower interest rates in the West and the very high interest rates in Africa, being endorsed by the Bretton Wood institutions, should be seriously challenged. Instead of aid, the emphasis should be on trade. After hundreds of years of crude exploitation of her resources, Africa should no longer be a dumping ground. Having been on the receiving end, Africa should champion the struggle for a new world economic order based on justice and fair play.”
The frontline lawyer noted that apart from condemning the level of corruption in Africa, the U.S government had not deemed it fit to ensure that the stolen wealth is repatriated.