Full Text Obama Presidency August 16, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Press Conference After U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Press Conference After U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

Source: WH, 8-6-14 

State Department
Washington, D.C.

6:14 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  As I think everyone knows by now, this first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit has been the largest gathering we’ve ever hosted with African heads of state and government — and that includes about 50 motorcades.  So I want to begin by thanking the people of Washington, D.C. for helping us host this historic event — and especially for their patience with the traffic.

As I’ve said, this summit reflects the reality that even as Africa continues to face great challenges we’re also seeing the emergence of a new, more prosperous Africa.  Africa’s progress is being led by Africans, including leaders here today.  I want to take this opportunity again to thank my fellow leaders for being here.  Rather than a lot of prepared speeches, our sessions today were genuine discussions — a chance to truly listen and to try to come together around some pragmatic steps that we can take together.  And that’s what we’ve done this week.

First, we made important progress in expanding our trade.  The $33 billion in new trade and investments that I announced yesterday will help spur African development and support tens of thousands of American jobs.  With major new commitments to our Power Africa initiative, we’ve tripled our goal and now aim to bring electricity to 60 million African homes and businesses.  And today I reiterated that we’ll continue to work with Congress to achieve a seamless and long-term renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

We agreed that Africa’s growth depends, first and foremost, on continued reforms in Africa, by Africans.  The leaders here pledged to step up efforts to pursue reforms that attract investment, reduce barriers that stifle trade — especially between African countries — and to promote regional integration. And as I announced yesterday, the United States will increase our support to help build Africa’s capacity to trade with itself and with the world.

Ultimately, Africa’s prosperity depends on Africa’s greatest resource — its people.  And I’ve been very encouraged by the desire of leaders here to partner with us in supporting young entrepreneurs, including through our Young African Leaders Initiative.  I think there’s an increasing recognition that if countries are going to reach their full economic potential, then they have to invest in women — their education, their skills, and protect them from gender-based violence.  And that was a topic of conversation this afternoon.  And this week the United States announced a range of initiatives to help empower women across Africa.

Our New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition continues to grow, aiming to lift 50 million Africans from poverty.  In our fight against HIV/AIDS, we’ll work with 10 African countries to help them double the number of their children on lifesaving anti-retroviral drugs.  And even as the United States is deploying some of our medical first responders to West Africa to help control the Ebola outbreak, we’re also working to strengthen public health systems, including joining with the African Union to pursue the creation of an African Centers for Disease Control.

I also want to note that the American people are renewing their commitment to Africa.  Today, InterAction — the leading alliance of American NGOs — is announcing that over the next three years its members will invest $4 billion to promote maternal health, children’s health, and the delivery of vaccines and drugs.  So this is not just a government effort, it is also an effort that’s spurred on by the private sector.  Combined with the investments we announced yesterday — and the commitments made today at the symposium hosted by our spouses — that means this summit has helped to mobilize some $37 billion for Africa’s progress on top of, obviously, the substantial efforts that have been made in the past.

Second, we addressed good governance, which is a foundation of economic growth and free societies.  Some African nations are making impressive progress.  But we see troubling restrictions on universal rights.  So today was an opportunity to highlight the importance of rule of law, open and accountable institutions, strong civil societies, and protection of human rights for all citizens and all communities.  And I made the point during our discussion that nations that uphold these rights and principles will ultimately be more prosperous and more economically successful.

In particular, we agreed to step up our collective efforts against the corruption that costs African economies tens of billions of dollars every year — money that ought to be invested in the people of Africa.  Several leaders raised the idea of a new partnership to combat illicit finance, and there was widespread agreement.  So we decided to convene our experts and develop an action plan to promote the transparency that is essential to economic growth.

Third, we’re deepening our security cooperation to meet common threats, from terrorism to human trafficking.  We’re launching a new Security Governance Initiative to help our African countries continue to build strong, professional security forces to provide for their own security.  And we’re starting with Kenya, Niger, Mali, Nigeria, Ghana and Tunisia.

During our discussions, our West African partners made it clear that they want to increase their capacity to respond to crises.  So the United States will launch a new effort to bolster the regions early warning and response network and increase their ability to share information about emerging crises.

We also agreed to make significant new investments in African peacekeeping.  The United States will provide additional equipment to African peacekeepers in Somalia and the Central African Republic.  We will support the African Union’s efforts to strengthen its peacekeeping institutions.  And most importantly, we’re launching a new African peacekeeping rapid response partnership with the goal of quickly deploying African peacekeepers in support of U.N. or AU missions.  And we’ll join with six countries that in recent years have demonstrated a track record as peacekeepers — Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda.  And we’re going to invite countries beyond Africa to join us in supporting this effort, because the entire world has a stake in the success of peacekeeping in Africa.

In closing, I just want to say that this has been an extraordinary event, an extraordinary summit.  Given the success that we’ve had this week, we agreed that summits like this can be a critical part of our work together going forward, a forcing mechanism for decisions and action.  So we agreed that the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit will be a recurring event to hold ourselves accountable for our commitments and to sustain our momentum.  And I’ll strongly encourage my successor to carry on this work, because Africa must know that they will always have a strong and reliable partner in the United States of America.

So with that, I’m going to take a couple of questions.  I’m going to start with Julie Pace of Associated Press.  Where’s Julie?  There she is.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding this summit about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  And there’s an untested and unapproved drug in the U.S. that appears to be helping some of the Americans who are infected.  Is your administration considering at all sending supplies of this drug if it becomes available to some of these countries in West Africa?  And could you discuss a bit the ethics of either providing an untested drug to a foreign country, or providing it only to Americans and not to other countries that are harder hit if it could possibly save lives?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think we’ve got to let the science guide us.  And I don’t think all the information is in on whether this drug is helpful.  What we do know is that the Ebola virus, both currently and in the past, is controllable if you have a strong public health infrastructure in place.

And the countries that have been affected are the first to admit that what’s happened here is, is that their public health systems have been overwhelmed.  They weren’t able to identify and then isolate cases quickly enough.  You did not have a strong trust relationship between some of the communities that were affected and public health workers.  As a consequence, it spread more rapidly than has been typical with the periodic Ebola outbreaks that have occurred previously.

But despite obviously the extraordinary pain and hardship of the families and persons who’ve been affected, and despite the fact that we have to take this very seriously, it is important to remind ourselves this is not an airborne disease; this is one that can be controlled and contained very effectively if we use the right protocols.

So what we’ve done is to make sure that we’re surging not just U.S. resources, but we’ve reached out to European partners and partners from other countries, working with the WHO.  Let’s get all the health workers that we need on the ground.  Let’s help to bolster the systems that they already have in place. Let’s nip as early as possible any additional outbreaks of the disease.  And then during the course of that process, I think it’s entirely appropriate for us to see if there are additional drugs or medical treatments that can improve the survivability of what is a very deadly and obviously brutal disease.

So we’re going to — we’re focusing on the public health approach right now because we know how to do that.  But I will continue to seek information about what we’re learning with respect to these drugs going forward.

Q    If this drug proves to be effective, would you support fast-tracking its approval in the United States?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I think it’s premature for me to say that because I don’t have enough information.  I don’t have enough data right now to offer an opinion on that.

Jon Karl, ABC News.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  When you were running for President, you said, “The biggest problems we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all.  And that’s what I intend to reverse.”  So my question to you — has Congress’s inability to do anything significant given you a green light to push the limits of executive power, even a duty to do so?  Or put another way — does it bother you more to be accused of being an imperial President, pushing those limits, or to be accused of being a do-nothing President who couldn’t get anything done because he faced a dysfunctional Congress?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I think that I never have a green light.  I’m bound by the Constitution; I’m bound by separation of powers.  There are some things we can’t do.

Congress has the power of the purse, for example.  I would love to fund a large infrastructure proposal right now that would put millions of people to work and boost our GDP.  We know we’ve got roads and bridges and airports and electrical grids that need to be rebuilt.  But without the cooperation of Congress, what I can do is speed up the permitting process, for example.  I can make sure that we’re working with the private sector to see if we can channel investment into much-needed projects.  But ultimately, Congress has to pass a budget and authorize spending. So I don’t have a green light.

What I am consistently going to do is, wherever I have the legal authorities to make progress on behalf of middle-class Americans and folks working to get into the middle class, whether it’s by making sure that federal contractors are paying a fair wage to their workers, making sure that women have the opportunity to make sure that they’re getting paid the same as men for doing the same job, where I have the capacity to expand some of the student loan programs that we’ve already put in place so that repayments are a little more affordable for college graduates — I’m going to seize those opportunities.  And that’s what I think the American people expect me to do.

My preference in all these instances is to work with Congress, because not only can Congress do more, but it’s going to be longer-lasting.  And when you look at, for example, congressional inaction, and in particular, the inaction on the part of House Republicans, when it comes to immigration reform, here’s an area where, as I’ve said before, not only the American people want to see action, not only is there 80 percent overlap between what Republicans say they want and Democrats say they want, we actually passed a bill out of the Senate that was bipartisan.

And in those circumstances, what the American people expect is that, despite the differences between the parties, there should at least be the capacity to move forward on things we agree on.  And that’s not what we’re seeing right now.  So in the face of that kind of dysfunction, what I can do is scour our authorities to try to make progress.

And we’re going to make sure that every time we take one of these steps that we are working within the confines of my executive power.  But I promise you the American people don’t want me just standing around twiddling my thumbs and waiting for Congress to get something done.  Even as we take these executive actions, I’m going to continue to reach out to Democrats and Republicans — to the Speaker, to the leadership on both sides and in both chambers — to try to come up with formulas where we can make progress, even if it’s incremental.

Q    Do you believe you have the power to grant work permits to those who are here illegally, as some of your supporters have suggested?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  What I certainly recognize with respect to immigration reform — and I’ve said this in the past — is that we have a broken system; it’s under-resourced; and we’ve got to make choices in terms of how we allocate personnel and resources.

So if I’m going to, for example, send more immigration judges down to the border to process some of these unaccompanied children that have arrived at the border, then that’s coming from someplace else, and we’re going to have to prioritize.  That’s well within our authorities and prosecutorial discretion.

My preference would be an actual comprehensive immigration law.  And we already have a bipartisan law that would solve a whole bunch of these problems.  Until that happens, I’m going to have to make choice.  That’s what I was elected to do.

Margaret Talev, Bloomberg.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Along the lines of executive authority, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has previously said that the executive branch of government doesn’t have the authority to slow or stop corporate inversions, the practice that you have called distasteful, unpatriotic, et cetera.  But now he is reviewing options to do so.  And this is an issue that a lot of business, probably including some of the ones who were paying a lot of attention to this summit, are interested in.  So what I wanted to ask you was, what prompted this apparent reversal?  What actions are now under consideration?  Will you consider an executive order that would limit or ban such companies from getting federal contracts?  And how soon would you like to see Treasury act, given Congress’s schedule?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Just to review why we’re concerned here. You have accountants going to some big corporations — multinational corporations but that are clearly U.S.-based and have the bulk of their operations in the United States — and these accountants are saying, you know what, we found a great loophole — if you just flip your citizenship to another country, even though it’s just a paper transaction, we think we can get you out of paying a whole bunch of taxes.

Well, it’s not fair.  It’s not right.  The lost revenue to Treasury means it’s got to be made up somewhere, and that typically is going to be a bunch of hardworking Americans who either pay through higher taxes themselves or through reduced services.  And in the meantime, the company is still using all the services and all the benefits of effectively being a U.S. corporation; they just decided that they’d go through this paper exercise.

So there is legislation working its way through Congress that would eliminate some of these tax loopholes entirely.  And it’s true what Treasury Secretary Lew previously said, that we can’t solve the entire problem administratively.  But what we are doing is examining are there elements to how existing statutes are interpreted by rule or by regulation or tradition or practice that can at least discourage some of the folks who may be trying to take advantage of this loophole.

And I think it’s something that would really bother the average American, the idea that somebody renounces their citizenship but continues to entirely benefit from operating in the United States of America just to avoid paying a whole bunch of taxes.

We’re reviewing all of our options.  As usual, and related to the answer I gave Jonathan about executive actions, my preference would always be for us to go ahead and get something done in Congress.  And keep in mind it’s still a small number of companies that are resorting to this, because I think most American companies are proud to be American, recognize the benefits of being American, and are responsible actors and willing to pay their fair share of taxes to support all the benefits that they receive from being here.

But we don’t want to see this trend grow.  We don’t want companies who have up until now been playing by the rules suddenly looking over their shoulder and saying, you know what, some of our competitors are gaming the system and we need to do it, too.  That kind of herd mentality I think is something we want to avoid.  So we want to move quickly — as quickly as possible.

Q    Just to clarify, the federal contracting seems like an area that you’ve liked.  It’s worked well for you on issues like promoting gay rights, or contraception policy.  Is it fair to assume that that would — attaching this to federal contractors would be the first thing you would think of?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Margaret, I’m not going to announce specifics in dribs and drabs.  When we’ve done a thorough evaluation and we understand what our authorities are, I’ll let you know.

Chris Jansing, NBC News.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Russia said today that it is going to ban food and agricultural product imports.  That was about $1.3 billion last year.  At the same time, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that the massing of troops along the border of Ukraine increases the likelihood of an invasion.  Are sanctions not working?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, we don’t know yet whether sanctions are working.  Sanctions are working as intended in putting enormous pressure and strain on the Russian economy.  That’s not my estimation; if you look at the markets and you look at estimates in terms of capital flight, if you look at projections for Russian growth, what you’re seeing is that the economy has ground to a halt.  Somewhere between $100 billion and $200 billion of capital flight has taken place.  You’re not seeing a lot of investors coming in new to start businesses inside of Russia.

And it has presented the choice to President Putin as to whether he is going to try to resolve the issues in eastern Ukraine through diplomacy and peaceful means, recognizing that Ukraine is a sovereign country, and that it is up ultimately to the Ukrainian people to make decisions about their own lives; or, alternatively, continue on the course that he’s on, in which case he’s going to be hurting his economy, and hurting his own people over the long term.

And in that sense, we are doing exactly what we should be doing.  And we’re very pleased that our European allies and partners joined us in this process, as well as a number of countries around the world.

Having said all that, the issue is not resolved yet.  You still have fighting in eastern Ukraine.  Civilians are still dying.  We’ve already seen some of the consequences of this conflict in the loss of the Malaysian Airlines airliner — or jetliner.

And the sooner that we can get back on a track in which there are serious discussions taking place to ensure that all Ukrainians are heard, that they can work through the political process, that they’re represented, that the reforms that have already been offered by the government in Kyiv are implemented to protect Russian speakers, to assure decentralization of power — the sooner that we move on those, and the sooner that President Putin recognizes that Ukraine is an independent country, it’s only at that point where we can say that the problem has truly been solved.  But in the meantime, sanctions are working the way they’re supposed to.

Q    The troops that are massing on the border are more highly trained.  They seem to have more sophisticated weaponry, according to intelligence.  Does that make you reconsider — as a few Democrats have suggested — providing lethal aid to Ukraine, given those troop movements?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, keep in mind that the Russian army is a lot bigger than the Ukrainian army.  So the issue here is not whether the Ukrainian army has some additional weaponry.  At least up until this point, they’ve been fighting a group of separatists who have engaged in some terrible violence but who can’t match the Ukrainian army.

Now, if you start seeing an invasion by Russia, that’s obviously a different set of questions.  We’re not there yet.  What we have been doing is providing a whole host of assistance packages to the Ukrainian government and to their military, and we will continue to work with them to evaluate on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis what exactly they need in order to be able to defend their country and to deal with the separatist elements that currently are being armed by Russia.

But the best thing we can do for Ukraine is to try to get back on a political track.

David Ohito, The Standard.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You have been hosting African kings, prime ministers and presidents for the last three days.  But back home in Africa, media freedom is under threat.  The work of journalists is becoming increasingly difficult.  In Egypt, our Al Jazeera colleagues are in jail.  In Ethiopia, dozens of journalists are in prison.  In Kenya, they have passed very bad laws targeting the media.  What can the international community do to ensure that we have a strong media in Africa and, more importantly, to secure the release of the journalists who are behind bars?

And, two, so many countries in Africa are facing threats of terror.  I’m glad you’ve mentioned a few measures you’re going to take.  But what can the international community do also to neutralize terror threats in Mali, Cameroon, Nigeria, Kenya?  Could that be the reason you have skipped Kenya in your visits to Africa?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sorry, what was the last part of the question?

Q    Could the terror threats be the reason you have skipped Kenya in your visits to Africa?

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, no, no, no, no, no.  Well, first of all, with respect to journalists in the media, the last session that we had on good governance emphasized that good governance means everybody has a voice, that government is transparent and, thereby, accountable.  And even though leaders don’t always like it, the media plays a crucial role in assuring people that they have the proper information to evaluate the policies that their leaders are pursuing.

And so we have been very consistent in pushing governments not just in Africa, but around the world, to respect the right of journalists to practice their trade as a critical part of civil society and a critical part of any democratic norm.  The specific issue of the Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt, we’ve been clear both publicly and privately that they should be released.  And we have been troubled by some of the laws that have been passed around the world that seem to restrict the ability of journalists to pursue stories or write stories.  We’ve also been disturbed by efforts to control the Internet.  Part of what’s happened over the last decade or two is that new media, new technology allow people to get information that previously would have never been accessible, or only to a few specialists.  And now people can punch something up on the Internet and pull up information that’s relevant to their own lives and their own societies and communities.  So we’re going to continue to push back against these efforts.

As is true on a whole range of issues — and I’ve said this in the past — many times we will work with countries even though they’re not perfect on every issue.  And we find that in some cases engaging a country that generally is a good partner but is not performing optimally when it comes to all of the various categories of human rights, that we can be effective by working with them on certain areas, and criticizing them and trying to elicit improvements in other areas.  And even among countries that generally have strong human rights records, there are areas where there are problems.  That’s true of the United States, by the way.

And so the good news — and we heard this in the summit — is that more and more countries are recognizing that in the absence of good governance, in the absence of accountability and transparency, that’s not only going to have an effect domestically on the legitimacy of a government, it’s going to have an effect on economic development and growth.  Because ultimately, in an information age, open societies have the capacity to innovate and educate and move faster and be part of the global marketplace more than closed societies do over the long term.  I believe that.

Now, with respect to terrorism, I think there’s uniform concern of terrorist infiltration in many countries throughout Africa.  Obviously, this is a concern that we have globally.  A lot of the initiatives that we put forward were designed to partner so that countries, first and foremost, can deal with these problems within their own borders or regionally.  And the United States doesn’t have a desire to expand and create a big footprint inside of Africa.  What we do want to make sure we can do is partner with the African Union, with ECOWAS, with individual countries to build up their capacity.

And one of the encouraging things in the sessions was a recognition that fighting terrorism also requires security forces that are professional, that are disciplined, that themselves are not engaging in human rights violations; that part of the lesson that we’ve all learned about terrorism is that it is possible in reaction to terrorism to actually accelerate the disease if the response is one that alienates populations or particular ethnic groups or particular religions.  And so the work that we’re doing, including the security initiatives that I announced today, I think can make a big difference in that direction.

It’s not just a matter of us providing better equipment or better training.  That’s a part of it, but part of it is also making sure that these security forces and the intelligence operations are coordinated and professional, and they’re not alienating populations.  The more we do that, the more effective we can be.

Last point I’ll make is, on good governance, one of the best inoculators against terrorist infiltration is a society in which everybody feels as if they have a stake in the existing order, and they feel that their grievances can be resolved through political means rather than through violence.  And so that’s just one more reason why good governance has to be part of the recipe that we use for a strong, stable and prosperous Africa.

Last question, Jérôme Cartillier.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Earlier today, the Israeli Prime Minister described the Gaza operation as “justified and proportionate.”  Do you agree with these two words?  And Israel and Hamas seems to be at odds over prolonging the cease-fire.  Are you hopeful the cease-fire — a true cease-fire can be achieved?  And what exact role can the U.S. play in the current talks going on in Cairo?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I have said from the beginning that no country would tolerate rockets being launched into their cities.  And as a consequence, I have consistently supported Israel’s right to defend itself, and that includes doing what it needs to do to prevent rockets from landing on population centers and, more recently, as we learned, preventing tunnels from being dug under their territory that can be used to launch terrorist attacks.  I also think it is important to remember that Hamas acts extraordinarily irresponsibly when it is deliberately siting rocket launchers in population centers, putting populations at risk because of that particular military strategy.

Now, having said all that, I’ve also expressed my distress at what’s happened to innocent civilians, including women and children, during the course of this process.  And I’m very glad that we have at least temporarily achieved a cease-fire.  The question is now how do we build on this temporary cessation of violence and move forward in a sustainable way.

We intend to support the process that’s taking place in Egypt.  I think the short-term goal has to be to make sure that rocket launches do not resume, that the work that the Israeli government did in closing off these tunnels has been completed, and that we are now in the process of helping to rebuild a Gaza that’s been really badly damaged as a consequence of this conflict.  Long term, there has to be a recognition that Gaza cannot sustain itself permanently closed off from the world and incapable of providing some opportunity — jobs, economic growth — for the population that lives there, particularly given how dense that population is, how young that population is.

We’re going to have to see a shift in opportunity for the people of Gaza.  I have no sympathy for Hamas.  I have great sympathy for ordinary people who are struggling within Gaza.  And the question then becomes, can we find a formula in which Israel has greater assurance that Gaza will not be a launching pad for further attacks, perhaps more dangerous attacks as technology develops into their country.  But at the same time, ordinary Palestinians have some prospects for an opening of Gaza so that they do not feel walled off and incapable of pursuing basic prosperity.

I think there are formulas that are available, but they’re going to require risks on the part of political leaders.  They’re going to require a slow rebuilding of trust, which is obviously very difficult in the aftermath of the kind of violence that we’ve seen.  So I don’t think we get there right away, but the U.S. goal right now would be to make sure that the cease-fire holds, that Gaza can begin the process of rebuilding, and that some measures are taken so that the people of Gaza feel some sense of hope, and the people of Israel feel confident that they’re not going to have a repeat of the kind of rocket launches that we’ve seen over the last several weeks.

And Secretary Kerry has been in consistent contact with all the parties involved.  We expect we will continue to be trying to work as diligently as we can to move the process forward.

It is also going to need to involve the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank.  I have no sympathy for Hamas.  I have great sympathy for some of the work that has been done in cooperation with Israel and the international community by the Palestinian Authority.  And they’ve shown themselves to be responsible. They have recognized Israel.  They are prepared to move forward to arrive at a two-state solution.

I think Abu Mazen is sincere in his desire for peace.  But they have also been weakened, I think, during this process.  The populations in the West Bank may have also lost confidence or lost a sense of hope in terms of how to move forward.  We have to rebuild that, as well.  And they are the delegation that’s leading the Palestinian negotiators.  And my hope is, is that we’ll be engaging with them to try to move what has been a very tragic situation over the last several weeks into a more constructive path.

Thank you very much, everybody.  And thank you all who participated in the Africa Summit.  It was an outstanding piece of work.  And I want to remind folks, in case they’ve forgotten, of the incredible young people who participated in our fellows program.  We’re very proud of you, and we’re looking forward to seeing all the great things that you do when you go back home.

Thank you.

END
6:54 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency August 5, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum

Source: WH, 8-5-14

Mandarin Oriental Hotel
Washington, D.C.

3:20 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:   Thank you so much.  Thank you.  Please be seated.  Well, good afternoon, everybody.  To Mayor Bloomberg, thank you — not only for the kind introduction, but to Bloomberg Philanthropies as our co-host, and for the great work that you’re doing across Africa to help create jobs, and promote public health, encourage entrepreneurship, especially women.  So thank you very much, Michael, for your leadership.  I want to thank our other co-host — my great friend and tireless Commerce Secretary, Penny Pritzker.  (Applause.)

I want to welcome all of our partners who are joining us from across Africa — heads of state and government, and let me welcome the delegations from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, with whom we are working so urgently to control the Ebola outbreak and whose citizens are in our thoughts and prayers today.  I also want to welcome Madame Chairperson Dlamini-Zuma of the African Union Commission; President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka; as well as the President of the World Bank, Dr. Jim Kim.  Please give them all a round of applause.  (Applause.)

And I want to acknowledge members of Congress who are here and who are such great champions of Africa’s engagement with — America’s engagement with Africa.  In a city that does not always agree on much these days, there is broad bipartisan agreement that a secure, prosperous and self-reliant Africa is in the national interest of the United States.

And most of all, I want to thank all of you — the business leaders, the entrepreneurs both from the United States and from across Africa who are creating jobs and opportunity for our people every day.  And I want to acknowledge leaders from across my administration who, like Penny, are your partners, including our U.S. Trade Representative, Mike Froman; USAID Administrator Raj Shah; and our new head of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Dana Hyde; President of the Export-Import Bank, Fred Hochberg; Director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, Lee Zak; and our President and CEO of OPIC, Elizabeth Littlefield.

So we are here, of course, as part of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit — the largest gathering any American President has ever hosted with African heads of state and government.  And this summit reflects a perspective that has guided my approach to Africa as President.  Even as Africa continues to face enormous challenges, even as too many Africans still endure poverty and conflict, hunger and disease, even as we work together to meet those challenges, we cannot lose sight of the new Africa that’s emerging.

We all know what makes Africa such an extraordinary opportunity.  Some of the fastest-growing economies in the world.  A growing middle class.  Expanding sectors like manufacturing and retail.  One of the fastest-growing telecommunications markets in the world.  More governments are reforming, attracting a record level of foreign investment.  It is the youngest and fastest-growing continent, with young people that are full of dreams and ambition.

Last year in South Africa, in Soweto, I held a town hall with young men and women from across the continent, including some who joined us by video from Uganda.  And one young Ugandan woman spoke for many Africans when she said to me, “We are looking to the world for equal business partners and commitments, and not necessarily aid.  We want to do [business] at home and be the ones to own our own markets.”  That’s a sentiment we hear over and over again.  When I was traveling throughout Africa last year, what I heard was the desire of Africans not just for aid, but for trade and development that actually helps nations grow and empowers Africans for the long term.

As President, I’ve made it clear that the United States is determined to be a partner in Africa’s success — a good partner, an equal partner, and a partner for the long term.  (Applause.)  We don’t look to Africa simply for its natural resources; we recognize Africa for its greatest resource, which is its people and its talents and their potential.  (Applause.)  We don’t simply want to extract minerals from the ground for our growth; we want to build genuine partnerships that create jobs and opportunity for all our peoples and that unleash the next era of African growth.  That’s the kind of partnership America offers.

And since I took office, we’ve stepped up our efforts across the board.  More investments in Africa; more trade missions, like the one Penny led this year; and more support for U.S. exports.  And I’m proud — I’m proud that American exports to Africa have grown to record levels, supporting jobs in Africa and the United States, including a quarter of a million good American jobs.

But here’s the thing:  Our entire trade with all of Africa is still only about equal to our trade with Brazil — one country.  Of all the goods we export to the world, only about one percent goes to Sub-Saharan Africa.  So we’ve got a lot of work to do.  We have to do better — much better.  I want Africans buying more American products.  I want Americans buying more African products.  I know you do, too.  And that’s what you’re doing today.  (Applause.)

So I’m pleased that in conjunction with this forum, American companies are announcing major new deals in Africa.  Blackstone will invest in African energy projects.  Coca-Cola will partner with Africa to bring clean water to its communities.  GE will help build African infrastructure.  Marriott will build more hotels.  All told, American companies — many with our trade assistance — are announcing new deals in clean energy, aviation, banking, and construction worth more than $14 billion, spurring development across Africa and selling more goods stamped with that proud label, “Made in America.”

And I don’t want to just sustain this momentum, I want to up it.  I want to up our game.  So today I’m announcing a series of steps to take our trade with Africa to the next level.

First, we’re going to keep working to renew the African Growth and Opportunity Act — and enhance it.  (Applause.)  We still do the vast majority of our trade with just three countries — South Africa, Nigeria and Angola.  It’s still heavily weighted towards the energy sector.  We need more Africans, including women and small- and medium-sized businesses, getting their goods to market.  And leaders in Congress — Democrats and Republicans — have said they want to move forward.  So I’m optimistic we can work with Congress to renew and modernize AGOA before it expires, renew it for the long term.  We need to get that done.  (Applause.)

Second, as part of our “Doing Business in Africa” campaign, we’re going to do even more to help American companies compete.  We’ll put even more of our teams on the ground, advocating on behalf of your companies.  We’re going to send even more trade missions.  Today, we’re announcing $7 billion in new financing to promote American exports to Africa.  Earlier today, I signed an executive order to create a new President’s advisory council of business leaders to help make sure we’re doing everything we can to help you do business in Africa.  (Applause.)

And I would be remiss if I did not add that House Republicans can help by reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank.  That is the right thing to do.  (Applause.)  I was trying to explain to somebody that if I’ve got a Ford dealership and the Toyota dealership is providing financing to anybody who walks in the dealership and I’m not, I’m going to lose business.  It’s pretty straightforward.  We need to get that reauthorized.  (Applause.)  And you business leaders can help make clear that it is critical to U.S. business.

Number three, we want to partner with Africa to build the infrastructure that economies need to flourish.  And that starts with electricity, which most Africans still lack.  That’s why last year while traveling throughout the continent, I announced a bold initiative, Power Africa, to double access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa and help bring electricity to more than 20 million African homes and businesses.

Now, we’ve joined with African governments, the African Development Bank, and the private sector — and I will tell you, the response has exceeded our projections.  It has been overwhelming.  Already, projects and negotiations are underway that, when completed, will put us nearly 80 percent of the way toward our goal.  On top of the significant resources we’ve already committed, I’m announcing that the United States will increase our pledge to $300 million a year for this effort.

And as of today — including an additional $12 billion in new commitments being announced this week by our private sector partners and the World Bank and the government of Sweden — we’ve now mobilized a total of more than $26 billion to Power Africa just since we announced it — $26 billion.  (Applause.)  So today we’re raising the bar.  We decided we’re meeting our goal too easily, Zuma, so we’ve got to go up.  So we’re tripling our goal, aiming to bring electricity to more than 60 million African homes and businesses that can spark growth for decades to come.  (Applause.)

Fourth, we’ll do more to help Africans trade with each other, because the markets with the greatest potential are often the countries right next door.  And it should not be harder to export your goods to your neighbor than it is to export those goods to Los Angeles or to Amsterdam.  (Applause.)  So through our Trade Africa initiative, we’ll increase our investments to help our African partners build their own capacity to trade, to strengthen regional markets, make borders more efficient, modernize the customs system.  We want to get African goods moving faster within Africa, as well as outside of Africa.

And finally, we’re doing more to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs and business leaders — it’s young men and women, like our extraordinary Mandela Washington Fellows that I met with last week.  And I have to say to the heads of state and government, you would have been extraordinarily proud to meet these young people who exhibit so much talent and so much energy and so much drive.

With new Regional Leadership Centers and online courses, we’re going to offer training and networking for tens of thousands of young entrepreneurs across Africa. New grants will help them access the capital they need to grow.  Our annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit this year will be held in Morocco.  Next year, it will be held for the first time in Sub-Saharan Africa — because we want to make sure that all that talent is tapped and they have access to the capital and the networks and the markets that they need to succeed.  Because if they succeed, then the countries in which they live will succeed.  They’ll create jobs.  They’ll create growth.  They’ll create opportunity.

So the bottom line is the United States is making a major and long-term investment in Africa’s progress.  And taken together, the new commitments I’ve described today — across our government and by our many partners — total some $33 billion.  And that will support development across Africa and jobs here in the United States.  Up to tens of thousands of American jobs are supported every time we expand trade with Africa.

As critical as all these investments are, the key to unlocking the next era of African growth is not going to be here in the United States, it’s going to be in Africa.  And so, during this week’s summit, we’ll be discussing a whole range of areas where we’re going to have to work together — areas that are important in their own right, but which are also essential to Africa’s growth.

Capital is one thing.  Development programs and projects are one thing.  But rule of law, regulatory reform, good governance — those things matter even more, because people should be able to start a business and ship their goods without having to pay a bribe or hire somebody’s cousin.

Agricultural development is critical because it’s the best way to boost incomes for the majority of Africans who are farmers, especially as they deal with the impacts of climate change.

Rebuilding a strong health infrastructure, especially for mothers and children, is critical because no country can prosper unless its citizens are healthy and strong, and children are starting off with the advantages they need to grow to their full potential.

And we’re going to have to talk about security and peace, because the future belongs to those who build, not those who destroy.  And it’s very hard to attract business investment, and it’s very hard to build infrastructure, and it’s very hard to sustain entrepreneurship in the midst of conflict.

So I just want to close with one example of what trade can help us build together.  Kusum Kavia was born in Kenya; her family was originally from India.  Eventually, she emigrated to the United States and along with her husband started a small business in California.  It started off as a small engineering firm.  Then it started manufacturing small power generators.  With the help of the Export-Import Bank — including seminars and a line of credit and risk insurance — they started exporting power generators to West Africa.  In Benin, they helped build a new electric power plant.

And it’s ended up being a win-win for everybody.  It’s been a win for their company, Combustion Associates, because exports to Africa have boosted their sales, which means they’ve been able to hire more workers here in the United States.  They partner with GE; GE is doing well.  Most of their revenues are from exports to Africa.  It’s been a win for their suppliers in Texas and Ohio and New York.  It’s been a win for Benin and its people, because more electricity for families and businesses, jobs for Africans at the power plant because the company hires locally and trains those workers.  And they hope to keep expanding as part of our Power Africa initiative.

So this is an example of just one small business.  Imagine if we can replicate that success across our countries.

Kusum says, “When our customers see the label, ‘Made in America,’ when they see our flag, it puts us above all the competition.”  And her vision for their company is the same vision that brings us all here today.  She says, “We really want to have a long-term partnership with Africa.”  So Kusum is here.  I had a chance to meet her backstage.  Where is she?  Right there.  Stand up, Kusum.  So she’s doing great work.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

But she’s an example of what’s possible — a long-term partnership with Africa.  And that’s what America offers.  That’s what we’re building.  That’s the difference we can make when Africans and Americans work together.  So let’s follow Kusum’s lead.  Let’s do even more business together.  Let’s tear down barriers that slow us down and get in the way of trade.  Let’s build up the infrastructure — the roads, the bridges, the ports, the electricity — that connect our countries.  Let’s create more and sell more and buy more from each other.  I’m confident that we can.  And when we do, we won’t just propel the next era of African growth, we’ll create more jobs and opportunity for everybody — for people here in the United States and for people around the world.

So thank you very much, everybody, for what so far has been an outstanding session.  And I’ve got the opportunity to speak to this young man.  (Applause.)

Q    So thank you very much, Mr. President for this opportunity.  I’ll start by wishing you a belated Happy Birthday.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

Q    Thank you very much.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Have you introduced yourself to everybody?

Q    I wanted to really jump into the issues.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, go ahead and introduce yourself.

Q    All right.  I’m Takunda Chingonzo.  I’m a young entrepreneur.  I’m 21.  I’m from Zimbabwe.  And I’m working in the wireless technology space.  We’re essentially liberating the Internet for Zimbabweans.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  And let me just — this is an example of our young African leaders; in fact, the youngest young African leader.  But one thing I will say, though, if you’re going to promote your business, you’ve got to make sure to let people know who you are.  (Laughter.)

Q    Definitely, definitely.

THE PRESIDENT:  Just a little tip.

Q    Definitely.

THE PRESIDENT:  You can’t be shy, man.  (Laughter.)  Please, go ahead.

Q    That’s correct, Mr. President.  So I was really going to start by delving into a personal experience.  I was going to get to my business and how I got to where we are.

So as I was saying, we’re working in the technology space.  I’m working on my third startup — it’s called Saisai.  We’re creating Zimbabwe’s first free Internet-access network, hence liberating the Internet.  So in our working, we came to a point in time where we needed to import a bit of technology from the United States, and so we were engaging in conversation with these U.S.-based businesses.  And the response that we got time and time again was that unfortunately we cannot do business with you because you are from Zimbabwe.  And I was shocked — this doesn’t make sense.

And so this is the exact same experience that other entrepreneurs that are in Zimbabwe have gone through, even through the meetings that I’ve had here.  You know, you sit down with potential investors, you talk about the project, the outlook, the opportunity, the growth and all that — and they’re excited, you can see.  All systems are firing, right?  And then I say I’m from Zimbabwe and they look at me and they say, young man, this is a good project, very good, very good, but unfortunately we cannot engage in business with you.

And I understand that the sanctions that we have — that are imposed on entities in Zimbabwe, these are targeted sanctions, right?  But then we have come to a point in time where we as young Africans are failing to properly engage in business with U.S.-based entities because there hasn’t been that clarity.  These entities believe that Zimbabwe is under sanctions.  So what really can we do to do try and clarify this to make sure that we as the young entrepreneurs can effectively develop Africa and engage in business?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, obviously, the situation in Zimbabwe is somewhat unique.  The challenge for us in the United States has been how do we balance our desire to help the people of Zimbabwe with what has, frankly, been a repeated violation of basic democratic practices and human rights inside of Zimbabwe.

And we think it is very important to send clear signals about how we expect elections to be conducted, governments to be conducted — because if we don’t, then all too often, with impunity, the people of those countries can suffer.  But you’re absolutely right that it also has to be balanced with making sure that whatever structures that we put in place with respect to sanctions don’t end up punishing the very people inside those countries.

My immediate suggestion — and this is a broader point to all the African businesses who are here, as well as the U.S. businesses — is to make sure that we’re using the Department of Commerce and the other U.S. agencies where we can gather groups of entrepreneurs and find out exactly what can be done, what can’t be done, what resources are available.  It may be that you and a group of entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe are able to meet with us and propose certain projects that allow us to say this is something that will advance as opposed to retard the progress for the Zimbabwean people.

So what I’d suggest would be that we set up a meeting and we find out what kinds of things that the young entrepreneurs of Zimbabwe want to do, and see if there are ways that we can work with you consistent with the strong message that we send about good governance in Zimbabwe.

Q    I see.  Because really — the point of emphasis really is that as young Africans we want to converse with other business entities here in the U.S., and if these sanctions are really targeted, then in honest truth, they aren’t supposed to hamper the business that we’re trying to engage in, the development that we’re talking about.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let’s see if we can refine them further based on some of the things you’re talking about.

Q    That’s all right.  Now, there have been a good number of investments that have been announced here — multibillion-dollar investments in Africa — and we’re really excited.  And there’s been a lot of talk about how the public and private partnerships are the vehicle through which this investment will come into Africa, but I really want to bring it to a point of clarity.  I believe that the private sector is stratified in itself.  We have the existing indigenous businesses in these countries that you’re hoping to invest in, and this is where usually the funding comes through — the partnerships and all that.  That is well and fine.

But then, underneath that, we have these young, upcoming entrepreneurs — the innovators, those that come up with products and services that disrupt the industry.  And this is the innovation that we want in Africa, to build products by Africans for Africans.  But in most cases, in what we have seen over the past years, is that, indeed, this investment comes through but it never cascades down to these young entrepreneurs, the emerging businesses.  And so the existing businesses then form a sort of ceiling which we cannot break through.

When it comes to investment, when you’re talking about solving unemployment, I believe that it’s more realistic to assume and understand that the probability of 10 startups employing 10 people in a given time period, it’s more realistic than one indigenous company employing 100 people.

So what really has been — or rather, has there been any consideration in these deals that have been structured in the investments that you announced to cater for the young entrepreneur who is trying to innovate to solve the problems in society?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I think for the business leaders who are here, both African and U.S., it’s hard being a startup everywhere.

Q    That’s true.

THE PRESIDENT:  Part of what you’re describing is typical of business around the world:  Folks who are already in, they don’t necessarily want to share.  They don’t want to be disrupted.  If there’s a good opportunity, they’d rather do it themselves.  If they see a small up-and-coming hotshot who might disrupt their business, they may initially try to block you or they may try to buy you out.  And getting financing for a startup is always going to be difficult.  You hear that from entrepreneurs here in the U.S. as well.

Having said that, what is absolutely true is that as we think about the billions of dollars that we’re mobilizing, we want to make sure that small businesses, medium-size businesses, women-owned businesses — that they have opportunity.  And so my instructions to all of our agencies and hopefully the work that we’re doing with all of our partners is how can we identify, target financing for the startup; how can we identify and link up U.S. companies with small and medium-size businesses and not just the large businesses?  And I think you are absolutely right that by us trying to spread investment, not narrowly through one or two companies but more broadly, that the opportunities for success in those countries are higher, and it also creates a healthy competition.

And that’s true also in terms of how we’re designing – for example, our Feed the Future program, which is working with almost 2 million small farmers inside of Africa.  When I was in Senegal, I met with a woman, maybe in her 30s; she had a small plot of land initially.  Through the Feed the Future program, she had been able to mechanize, double her productivity.  By doubling her productivity and, through a smartphone, getting better prices to the market, she was able to increase her profits.  Then she bought a tractor.  Then she doubled her productivity again.  And suddenly what had started off as just a program to increase her income had become capital for a growing business where she was now hiring people in her area and doing some of the process of the grain that she grew herself, so that she could move up the value chain.

There are entrepreneurs like that all across Africa.  Sometimes the capital they need is not very large.  Sometimes it’s a fairly modest amount.  And so what I want to do is to make sure that we are constantly looking out for opportunities to disburse this capital not just narrowly, but broadly.  And one of the things that I hope happens with U.S. companies is that they’re constantly looking for opportunities to partner with young entrepreneurs, startups, and not just always going to the same well-established businesses.

Now, there are going to be some large-capital projects where you’ve got a good, solid, established company.  Hopefully they, themselves, have policies with respect to their suppliers that allow them to start encouraging and growing small businesses as well.

Q    Exactly.  And on that note, I’m glad that you acknowledged that and I hope that even in these deals, in the investments that you’re talking about, that one of the conditions be that those large organizations that are getting investment have policies that cascade down to people at the grassroots.

You spoke about this lady who was using a smartphone to — it is one key issue that is really propelling business and development in Africa, the ability to leverage technology.  And really it is all about the Internet of things.  And that is why I’m personally working in liberating the Internet to get more people connected.

Now, this is a huge opportunity in Africa as well.  Now, there is this troubling issue that has been brought to our attention with entities and organizations that have come up and have said we want to control the Internet, we want to see who gets what traffic and from whom.  And policies and activities like that become challenges for startups that are trying to leverage the Internet, for this lady farmer that you talked about who is trying to leverage and get information from the Internet.

So I want to understand what is your stance on net neutrality and its effects on the global development in Africa?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, this is an important issue for all the heads of state and government not just in Africa but around the world.  The reason the Internet is so powerful is because it’s open.  My daughters, 16 and 13, they can access information from anyplace in the world.  They can learn about a particular discipline instantaneously, in ways that when I was their age — first of all, I wasn’t as motivated as they are.  I was lazier than them.  (Laughter.)  They do much better in school than I did.  But the world is at their fingertips.

And what facilitates that, and what has facilitated the incredible value that’s been built by companies like Google and Facebook and so many others, all the applications that you find on your smartphone, is that there are not restrictions, there are not barriers to entry for new companies who have a good idea to use this platform that is open to create value.  And it is very important I think that we maintain that.

Now, I know that there’s a tension in some countries — their attitude is we don’t necessarily want all this information flowing because it can end up also being used as a tool for political organizing, it can be used as a tool to criticize the government, and so maybe we’d prefer a system that is more closed.  I think that is a self-defeating attitude.  Over the long term, because of technology, information, knowledge, transparency is inevitable.  And that’s true here in the United States; it’s true everywhere.

And so what we should be doing is trying to maintain an open Internet, trying to keep a process whereby any talented person who has an idea can suddenly use the Internet to disperse information.  There are going to be occasional tensions involved in terms of us monitoring the use of the Internet for terrorist networks or criminal enterprises or human trafficking.  But we can do that in ways that are compatible with maintaining an open Internet.

And this raises the broader question that I mentioned earlier, which is Africa needs capital; in some cases, Africa needs technical assistance; Africa certainly needs access to markets.  But perhaps the biggest thing that Africa is going to need to unleash even more the potential that’s already there and the growth that’s already taking place is laws and regulations and structures that empower individuals and are not simply designed to control or empower those at the very top.

And the Internet is one example.  You’ve got to have a system and sets of laws that encourage entrepreneurship, but that’s also true when it comes to a whole host of issues.  It’s true when it comes to how hard is it to get a business permit when a new startup like yours wants to establish itself.

When it comes to Power Africa, there are billions of dollars floating around the world that are interested in investing in power generation in Africa.  And the countries that are going to attract that investment are the ones where the investor knows that if a power plant is built, that there are rules in place that are transparent that ensure that they’re going to get a decent return, and that some of the revenue isn’t siphoned off in certain ways so that the investor has political risks or risks with respect to corruption.

The more that governments set up the right rules, understanding that in the 21st century the power that drives growth and development and the marketplace involves knowledge and that can’t be controlled, the more successful countries are going to be.

Q    I see.  So just to clarify on the issue of net neutrality, you are advocating for an open and fair Internet —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    — which would — then it has structure to ensure that the platform itself isn’t abused.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, there are two issues — net neutrality — in the United States, one of the issues around net neutrality is whether you are creating different rates or charges for different content providers.  That’s the big controversy here.  You have big, wealthy media companies who might be willing to pay more but then also charge more for more spectrum, more bandwidth on the Internet so they can stream movies faster or what have you.

And I personally — the position of my administration, as well as I think a lot of companies here is you don’t want to start getting a differentiation in how accessible the Internet is to various users.  You want to leave it open so that the next Google or the next Facebook can succeed.

There’s another problem, though — there are other countries — and I think this is what you were alluding to — that feel comfortable with the idea of controlling and censoring Internet content in their home countries, and setting up rules and laws about what can or cannot be on the Internet.  And I think that that not only is going to inhibit entrepreneurs who are creating value on the Internet; I think it’s also going to inhibit the growth of the country generally, because closed societies that are not open to new ideas, eventually they fall behind.  Eventually, they miss out on the future because they’re so locked into trying to maintain the past.

Q    I see.  Thank you for the clarity.  I think we’re out of a bit of time.  I’ll ask my final question.  When we began this conversation, we were alluding to the fact that — the need to separate the political function and economic function.  In other words, politics should not get in the way of business.  And I’ve gone to quite a good number of — I know it’s difficult — so I’ve gone to a good number of conferences where the end deliverable of the entire summit, or whatever it is, is that we need to lobby government to create policies that are conducive, and this and that.  And that’s usually what you get — either you’re trying to lobby somebody to do something, right?  And, in turn, governments come up and say, yes, we promise to come up with this and that, and this and that.  And that’s a whole political sphere of things.  My question is, apart from that, what can we as business leaders, as the private sector, what can we do sort of independently to — what can we do to create this economic environment that fosters for the growth and development of Africa as a continent?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, look, although this isn’t always a popular position here in Washington these days, the truth is, is that government really can help set the conditions and the framework for markets to function effectively — in part because governments are able to initiate projects like roads and bridges and airports that any individual business would find cost prohibitive.  It wouldn’t make sense to invest in what is a collective good; it’s not going to help your bottom line if everybody else is using it.  So that’s part of the function of government.

Part of the function of government is to educate a population so that you got a well-trained workforce.  It’s hard for companies to invest in doing that by themselves.  There are certain common goods, like maintaining clean air and clean water, and making sure that if you have capital markets, that they’re well-regulated so that they’re trust-worthy, and small investors and large investors know that if they invest in a stock that they’re not being cheated.

So there are a whole host of functions that government has to play.  But in the end, what drives innovation typically is not what happens in government, it’s what’s happening in companies.  And what we found in the United States is, is that companies, once they’ve got the basic rules and they’ve got the basic platform, they are able to create value and innovation and cultures that encourage growth.  And I think that African entrepreneurs are going to be the trendsetters for determining how societies think about themselves and, ultimately, how governments think about these issues.

The truth of the matter is, is that if you have big, successful companies or you’ve got widespread entrepreneurship, and you have a growing middle class and practices have been established in terms of fair dealing, and treating your workers properly, and extending opportunity to smaller contractors, and promoting women and making sure women are paid like men — suddenly, what happens is businesses create new norms and new sensibilities.  And governments oftentimes will respond.

And so I think in Africa what I’d like to see more and more of is partnerships between American businesses, between African businesses.  Some of the incredible cultures of some of our U.S. businesses that do a really good job promoting people and maintaining a meritocracy, and treating women equally, and treating people of different races and faiths and sexual orientations fairly and equally, and making sure that there are typical norms of how you deal with people in contracts and respect legal constraints — all those things I think can then take root in a country like Zimbabwe or any other country.  Hopefully, governments are encouraging that, not inhibiting that.  They recognize that that’s how the world as a whole is increasingly moving in that direction.  And over time, you will see an Africa that is driven by individual entrepreneurs and private organizations, and governments will be responsive to their demands.

So I think the one thing I want to make sure people understand, though, is it’s not an either/or issue.  Government has a critical role to play.  The marketplace has a critical role to play.  Nonprofit organizations have a critical role to play.  But the goal and the orientation constantly should be how do we empower individuals to work together.  And if we are empowering young people like you all across Africa, if we’ve got a 21-year-old who has already started three businesses, we’ve got to figure out how to invest in him, how to make it easier for him to succeed.  If you succeed, you’re going to then be hiring a whole bunch of people, and they, in turn, will succeed.  And that’s been the recipe for growth in the 20th century and the 21st century.

And I’m confident that Africa is well on its way.  America just wants to make sure that we’re helpful in that process.  And I know that all the U.S. companies who are here, that’s their goal as well.  We are interested in Africa, because we know that if Africa thrives and succeeds, and if you’ve got a bunch of entrepreneurs, they’re going to need supplies from us maybe, or they may supply us with outstanding products; they’re going to have a growing middle class that wants to buy iPhones or applications from us.  In turn, they may provide us new services and we can be the distributor for something that’s invented in Africa, and all of us grow at the same time.

That’s our goal, and I’m confident that we can make it happen.  And this summit has been a great start.  So I want to thank you for doing a great job moderating.  I want to thank all the leaders here not only of government, but also business for participating.  There’s been great energy, great enthusiasm.  I know a lot of business has gotten done.  If any of you are interested in investing in this young man, let him know.  (Laughter.)

All right, thank you, guys.

END
4:05 P.M. EDT

Political Musings July 8, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Africa trip in the shadow of Nelson Mandela and George W. Bush legacies

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama’s Africa trip in the shadow of Mandela and Bush legacies (Photos)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

On July 2, United States President Barack Obama ended an important overseas trip to Africa. On the last day of his trip, Obama attended a ceremony with his predecessor former President George W. Bush in Tanzania….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 13, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Upcoming Africa Trip Comes to Cost Taxpayers Tens of Millions

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama’s Africa Trip Comes with Hefty Price Tag

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-13-13

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama’s upcoming trip to Africa will require extraordinary security measures and will likely cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, according to a confidential planning document obtained by the Washington Post….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency May 18, 2012: President Barack Obama Announces New Partnership to Fight Global Hunger in Speech at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY
& THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES
& SPEECHES

President Obama Announces New Partnership to Fight Global Hunger

Source: WH, 5-18-12

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food SecurityPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. May 18, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

At today’s Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security, President Obama announced that leaders at this weekend’s G8 meeting would devote a special session to the urgent challenge facing nearly 1 billion men, women and children around the world: the injustice of chronic hunger and the need for long-term food security.

G8 and African leaders will launch a major new alliance with private sector partners to reduce hunger and lift 50 million people out of poverty by investing in Africa’s agricultural economy. The partnership builds on the commitment leaders made during the 2009 G8 meeting in L’Aquila to put the fight against hunger at the forefront of global development.

And that fight is about more than delivering aid, President Obama said. True, sustainable development is about promoting economic growth that helps nations develop. “The whole purpose of development is to create the conditions where assistance is no longer needed, where people have the dignity and the pride of being self-sufficient,” he said.

A good place to start this growth, the President explained, is to support growing a agriculture industry. “History teaches us that one of the most effective ways to pull people and entire nations out of poverty is to invest in their agriculture,” he said.

I’ve spoken before about relatives I have in Kenya, who live in villages where hunger is sometimes a reality — despite the fact that African farmers can be some of the hardest-working people on Earth. Most of the world’s unused arable land is in Africa. Fifty years ago, Africa was an exporter of food. There is no reason why Africa should not be feeding itself and exporting food again. There is no reason for that.

So that’s why we’re here. In Africa and around the world, progress isn’t coming fast enough.  And economic growth can’t just be for the lucky few at the top, it’s got to be broad-based, for everybody, and a good place to start is in the agricultural sector. So even as the world responds with food aid in a crisis — as we’ve done in the Horn of Africa — communities can’t go back just to the way things were, vulnerable as before, waiting for the next crisis to happen.

The new alliance announced today brings key players around the shared commitment to reduce hunger by investing in agricultural development. President Obama explained:

Governments, like those in Africa, that are committed to agricultural development and food security, they agree to take the lead — building on their own plans by making tough reforms and attracting investment. Donor countries — including G8 members and international organizations — agree to more closely align our assistance with these country plans. And the private sector — from large multinationals to small African cooperatives, your NGOs and civil society groups — agree to make concrete and continuing commitments as well, so that there is an alignment between all these sectors.

Most importantly, President Obama said, these efforts will help maintain focus on clear goals: helping 50 million men, women and children lift themselves out of poverty over the next decade.

Read more about the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition

Remarks by the President at Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security

Ronald Reagan Building
Washington, D.C.

10:08 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Please have a seat.  Thank you.  Well, good morning, everybody.  Thank you, Catherine Bertini, and Dan Glickman and everyone at the Chicago Council.  We were originally going to convene, along with the G8, in Chicago.  But since we’re not doing this in my hometown, I wanted to bring a little bit of Chicago to Washington.  (Laughter.)  It is wonderful to see all of you.  It is great to see quite a few young people here as well.  And I want to acknowledge a good friend.  We were just talking backstage — he was my inspiration for singing at the Apollo — (laughter) — Bono is here, and it is good to see him.  (Applause.)

Now, this weekend at the G8, we’ll be represented by many of the world’s largest economies.  We face urgent challenges — creating jobs, addressing the situation in the eurozone, sustaining the global economic recovery.  But even as we deal with these issues, I felt it was also important, also critical to focus on the urgent challenge that confronts some 1 billion men, women and children around the world — the injustice of chronic hunger; the need for long-term food security.

So tomorrow at the G8, we’re going to devote a special session to this challenge.  We’re launching a major new partnership to reduce hunger and lift tens of millions of people from poverty.  And we’ll be joined by leaders from across Africa, including the first three nations to undertake this effort and who join us here today — I want to acknowledge them:  Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia — (applause) — President Mills of Ghana — (applause) — and President Kikwete of Tanzania.  (Applause.)  Welcome.

I also want to acknowledge President Yayi of Benin, chair of the African Union — (applause) — which has shown great leadership in this cause.  And two of our leaders in this effort — USAID Administrator — every time I meet him, I realize that I was an underachiever in my 30s — (laughter) — Dr. Raj Shah is here.  (Applause.)  And the CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Daniel Yohannes.  (Applause.)

Now, this partnership is possible because so many leaders in Africa and around the world have made food security a priority.  And that’s why, shortly after I took office, I called for the international community to do its part.  And at the G8 meeting three years ago in L’Aquila, in Italy, that’s exactly what we did — mobilizing more than $22 billion for a global food security initiative.

After decades in which agriculture and nutrition didn’t always get the attention they deserved, we put the fight against global hunger where it should be, which is at the forefront of global development.  And this reflected the new approach to development that I called for when I visited Ghana, hosted by President Mills, and that I unveiled at the last summit on the Millennium Development goals.

It’s rooted in our conviction that true development involves not only delivering aid, but also promoting economic growth — broad-based, inclusive growth that actually helps nations develop and lifts people out of poverty.  The whole purpose of development is to create the conditions where assistance is no longer needed, where people have the dignity and the pride of being self-sufficient.

You see our new approach in our promotion of trade and investment, of building on the outstanding work of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.  You see it in the global partnership to promote open government, which empowers citizens and helps to fuel development, creates the framework, the foundation for economic growth.

You see it in the international effort we’re leading against corruption, including greater transparency so taxpayers receive every dollar they’re due from the extraction of natural resources.  You see it in our Global Health Initiative, which instead of just delivering medicine is also helping to build a stronger health system, delivering better care and saving lives.

And you see our new approach in our food security initiative, Feed the Future.  Instead of simply handing out food, we’ve partnered with countries in pursuit of ambitious goals:  better nutrition to prevent the stunting and the death of millions of children, and raising the incomes of millions of people, most of them farmers.  The good news is we’re on track to meet our goals.

As President, I consider this a moral imperative.  As the wealthiest nation on Earth, I believe the United States has a moral obligation to lead the fight against hunger and malnutrition, and to partner with others.

So we take pride in the fact that, because of smart investments in nutrition and agriculture and safety nets, millions of people in Kenya and Ethiopia did not need emergency aid in the recent drought.

But when tens of thousands of children die from the agony of starvation, as in Somalia, that sends us a message we’ve still got a lot of work to do.  It’s unacceptable.  It’s an outrage.  It’s an affront to who we are.

So food security is a moral imperative, but it’s also an economic imperative.  History teaches us that one of the most effective ways to pull people and entire nations out of poverty is to invest in their agriculture.  And as we’ve seen from Latin America to Africa to Asia, a growing middle class also means growing markets, including more customers for American exports that support American jobs.  So we have a self interest in this.

It’s a moral imperative, it’s an economic imperative, and it is a security imperative.  For we’ve seen how spikes in food prices can plunge millions into poverty, which, in turn, can spark riots that cost lives, and can lead to instability.  And this danger will only grow if a surging global population isn’t matched by surging food production.  So reducing malnutrition and hunger around the world advances international peace and security — and that includes the national security of the United States.

And perhaps nowhere do we see this link more vividly than in Africa.  On the one hand, we see Africa as an emerging market.  African economies are some of the fastest growing in the world.  We see a surge in foreign investment.  We see a growing middle class; hundreds of millions of people connected by mobile phones; more young Africans online than ever before.  There’s hope and some optimism.  And all of this has yielded impressive progress — for the first time ever, a decline in extreme poverty in Africa; an increase in crop yields; a dramatic drop in child deaths.  That’s the good news, and in part it’s due to some of the work of the people in this room.

On the other hand, we see an Africa that still faces huge hurdles:  stark inequalities; most Africans still living on less than $2 a day; climate change that increases the risk of drought and famine.  All of which perpetuates stubborn barriers in agriculture, in the agricultural sector — from bottlenecks in infrastructure that prevent food from getting to market, to the lack of credit, especially for small farmers, most of whom are women.

I’ve spoken before about relatives I have in Kenya, who live in villages where hunger is sometimes a reality — despite the fact that African farmers can be some of the hardest-working people on Earth.  Most of the world’s unused arable land is in Africa.  Fifty years ago, Africa was an exporter of food.  There is no reason why Africa should not be feeding itself and exporting food again.  There is no reason for that.  (Applause.)

So that’s why we’re here.  In Africa and around the world, progress isn’t coming fast enough.  And economic growth can’t just be for the lucky few at the top, it’s got to be broad-based, for everybody, and a good place to start is in the agricultural sector.  So even as the world responds with food aid in a crisis — as we’ve done in the Horn of Africa — communities can’t go back just to the way things were, vulnerable as before, waiting for the next crisis to happen.  Development has to be sustainable, and as an international community, we have to do better.

So here at the G8, we’re going to build on the progress we’ve made so far.  Today, I can announce a new global effort we’re calling a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.  And to get the job done we’re bringing together all the key players around a shared commitment.  Let me describe it.

Governments, like those in Africa, that are committed to agricultural development and food security, they agree to take the lead — building on their own plans by making tough reforms and attracting investment.  Donor countries — including G8 members and international organizations — agree to more closely align our assistance with these country plans.  And the private sector — from large multinationals to small African cooperatives, your NGOs and civil society groups — agree to make concrete and continuing commitments as well, so that there is an alignment between all these sectors.

Now, I know some have asked, in a time of austerity, whether this New Alliance is just a way for governments to shift the burden onto somebody else.  I want to be clear:  The answer is no.  As President, I can assure you that the United States will continue to meet our responsibilities, so that even in these tough fiscal times, we will continue to make historic investments in development.  And, by the way, we’re going to be working to end hunger right here in the United States as well.  (Applause.)  That will continue to be a priority.

We’ll continue to be the leader in times of crisis, as we’ve done as the single largest donor of aid in the Horn of Africa, and as we focus on the drought in the Sahel.  That’s why I’ve proposed to continue increasing funds for food security.  (Applause.)  So I want to be clear:  The United States will remain a global leader in development in partnership with you.  And we will continue to make available food — or emergency aid.  That will not change.  But what we do want to partner with you on is a strategy so that emergency aid becomes less and less relevant as a consequence of greater and greater sustainability within these own countries.

That’s how development is supposed to work.  That’s what I mean by a new approach that challenges more nations, more organizations, more companies, more NGOs, challenges individuals — some of the young people who are here — to step up and play a role — because government cannot and should not do this alone.  This has to be all hands on deck.

And that’s the essence of this New Alliance.  So G8 nations will pledge to honor the commitments we made in L’Aquila.  We must do what we say; no empty promises.  And at the same time, we’ll deliver the assistance to launch this new effort.  Moreover, we’re committing to replenish the very successful Global Agricultural and Food Security Program.  (Applause.)  That’s an important part of this overall effort.

Next, we’re going to mobilize more private capital.  Today, I can announce that 45 companies — from major international corporations to African companies and cooperatives — have pledged to invest more than $3 billion to kick off this effort.  (Applause.)  And we’re also going to fast-track new agricultural projects so they reach those in need even quicker.

Third, we’re going to speed up the development and delivery of innovation — better seeds, better storage — that unleash huge leaps in food production.  And we’re going to tap that mobile phone revolution in Africa so that more data on agriculture — whether it’s satellite imagery or weather forecasts or market prices — are put in the hands of farmers so they know where to plant and when to plant and when to sell.

Fourth, we’re joining with the World Bank and other partners to better understand and manage the risks that come with changing food prices and a changing climate — because a change in prices or a single bad season should not plunge a family, a community or a region into crisis.

And finally, we’re going to keep focusing on nutrition, especially for young children, because we know the effects of poor nutrition can last a lifetime — it’s harder to learn, it’s harder to earn a living.  When there is good nutrition, especially in those thousand days during pregnancy up to the child’s second birthday, it means healthier lives for that child and that mother.  And it’s the smart thing to do because better nutrition means lower health care costs and it means less need for assistance later on.

That’s what we’re going to do.  We’re going to sustain the commitments we made three years ago, and we’re going to speed things up.  And we’re starting with these three countries — Tanzania, Ghana and Ethiopia — precisely because of their record in improving agriculture and food security.

But this is just the beginning.  In the coming months, we’ll expand to six countries.  We’ll welcome other countries that are committed to making tough reforms.  We’ll welcome more companies that are willing to invest.  We’re going to hold ourselves accountable; we’ll measure results.  And we’ll stay focused on clear goals:  boosting farmers’ incomes, and over the next decade, helping 50 million men, women and children lift themselves out of poverty.  (Applause.)

And I know there are going to be skeptics — there always are.  We see heartbreaking images — fields turned to dust, babies with distended bellies — and we say it’s hopeless, and some places are condemned to perpetual poverty and hunger.  But the people in this room disagree.  I think most of the American people disagree.  Anyone who claims great change is impossible, I say look at the extraordinary successes in development.

Look at the Green Revolution, which pulled hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.  (Applause.)  Look at microfinance, which has empowered so many rural poor — something my mother was involved with.  Look at the huge expansion of education, especially for girls.  Look at the progress we’ve made with vaccines — from smallpox to measles to pneumonia to diarrhea — which have saved the lives of hundreds of millions.  And of course, look at the global fight against HIV/AIDS, which has brought us to the point where we can imagine what was once unthinkable — and that is the real possibility of an AIDS-free generation.  (Applause.)

Moreover, we are already making progress in this area right now.  In Rwanda, farmers are selling more coffee and lifting their families out of poverty.  In Haiti, some farmers have more than doubled their yields.  In Bangladesh, in the poorest region, they’ve had their first-ever surplus of rice.  There are millions of farmers and families whose lives are being transformed right now because of some of the strategies that we’re talking about.  And that includes a farmer in Ethiopia who got a new loan, increased production, hired more workers.  And he said, “This salary changed my life.  My kids can now go to school.”

And we start getting the wheel turning in the direction of progress.  We can do this.  We’re already doing it.  We just need to bring it all together.  We can unleash the change that reduces hunger and malnutrition.  We can spark the kind of economic growth that lifts people and nations out of poverty.  This is the new commitment that we’re making.  And I pledge to you today that this will remain a priority as long as I am United States President.  Thank very much.  (Applause.)  God bless you.  Thank you.  God bless America.

END
10:29 A.M. EDT

White House Recap May 12-18, 2012: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Honors Barnard Graduates, Fallen Law Enforcement Officials, LA Galaxy — Awards Medal of Honor & Discussed Congress Economic “To-Do-List”

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: MAY 12-18, 2012

This week, the President discussed his plan to help responsible homeowners, honored law enforcement officers, awarded the Medal of Honor and continued to call on Congress to act on a “To Do List”

West Wing Week

Weekly Wrap Up: Courage and Sacrifice

Source: WH, 5-18-12

Fight for Your Seat: President Obama traveled to New York City to deliver his first commencement address of the year at Barnard College, one of the famous “Seven Sisters” private female liberal arts colleges. HIs first piece advice to the graduates was: “Don’t just get involved. Fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table.”

Celebrating Soccer Champions: On Tuesday, President Obama welcomed the L.A. Galaxy to the White House to congratulate the team on their 2011 Major League Soccer Cup Championship. The star-studded team won a tough championship match after going undefeated at home all season long, and as President Obama noted, “You combined star power, hard work; it paid off.”

What Comes with the Badge: President Obama visited the U.S. Capitol for a ceremony where he paid tribute to law enforcement officials who were killed in the line of duty in the previous year. “Every American who wears the badge knows the burdens that come with it – the long hours and the stress; the knowledge that just about any moment could be a matter of life or death. You carry these burdens so the rest of us don’t have to,” the President said, acknowledging the bravery and sacrifice of all of those who serve as law enforcement officers across our country.

Above and Beyond: On Wednesday, President Obama awarded a Medal of Honor for valor above and beyond the call of duty to Leslie H. Sabo, Jr., an Army Specialist who died while serving in Cambodia in 1970. In honoring Sabo, who received the award posthumously, President Obama also paid tribute to those who served alongside him in the Vietnam era: “This medal is bestowed on a single soldier for his single courage. But it speaks to the service of an entire generation, and to the sacrifice of so many military families.”

Spruce Street at Taylor Gourmet: President Obama joined Small Business Administrator Karen Mills at Taylor Gourmet, a quickly expanding hoagie shop in Washington, D.C. for a roundtable with the business’ owners. President Obama discussed his To-Do List for Congress which includes passing legislation to help hard working small business owners create jobs by giving them a tax credit for new hires and tax relief for investments they make.

Fighting Global Hunger: At Friday’s Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security, President Obama announced that leaders at the G8 meeting this weekend at Camp David would devote a special session to the chronic hunger facing nearly 1 billion people around the world. G8 and African leaders will launch a major new alliance with private sector partners with a clear goal of reducing hunger and lifting 50 million people out of poverty by investing in Africa’s agricultural economy.

%d bloggers like this: