On August 4, President Obama welcomed more than forty-five African heads of state to Washington D. C. for the U.S. – African Leaders Summit, a first of its kind.
The Summit, the largest event any U.S. President has held with African heads of state and government aims to strengthen ties between the U.S. and one of the world’s most dynamic and fastest growing regions. The President announced plans for the Summit last year after his trip to Africa, with the goal of opening up a new chapter in U.S.-African relations.
Obama stated: “I do not see the countries and people of Africa as a world apart. I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world--partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all our children. That partnership, must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect.”
The theme of the Summit is ‘Investing in the Next Generation’ and provides an opportunity to discuss ways of stimulating growth, unlocking opportunities, and creating an enabling environment for the next generation.
More specifically, the Summit aims to advance the administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa, as other global powers, such as China, the European Union, and Japan, have all had similar summits and now have strong trade relations with the continent.
Monday’s opening forums touched on a range of issues including security, health, the environment, and corruption. One panel, which focused on trade, saw South African President Jacob Zuma urging the U.S. to renew the trade agreement, African Growth, which expires next year.
At another panel on Monday, some top U.S. officials weighed in with their goals for U.S. – African relations, such as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who urged African leaders to push for democracy and human rights in their countries. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden also addressed Summit participants emphasizing the importance of Africa’s economies in shaping the future developments of the world.
Also on Monday was the ‘Investing in Women, Peace, and Prosperity’ Signature Event, which recognized that African women’s leadership and meaningful participation at all levels--in government, the economy, and civil society--accelerates economic development while also improving health and educational indicators.
The discussion focused on promoting African women’s leadership and reinforced U.S.-African partnerships in expanding economic opportunity for women. Leaders also discussed promoting civic and political leadership for women and girls and increasing women’s roles in conflict prevention, peacebuilding and security decision-making.
On Wednesday, First Lady Michelle Obama and former First Lady Laura Bush and the Bush Institute are hosting a day-long symposium at the Kennedy Center focused on gender and women’s education. The Summit’s three day events set the stage for high-level discussions and allow for in-depth conversations on some of the most pressing issues facing the U.S. – African partnership. It also will identify opportunities for enhanced collaboration going forward.