WASHINGTON D.C. —
African Union Commission Chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma says she’s excited about U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the African Union, the first by a serving United States leader, saying it will help strengthen relations between the continent and America.
Mr. Obama will visit Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Tuesday following his two-day trip to his father’s homeland of Kenya.
Besides meeting with Ethiopian leaders, Mr. Obama will have a bilateral meeting with the Dlamini-Zuma and her Commissioners.
“This is an historic visit to the African Union. And it will be my great pleasure to welcome President Barack Obama to the AU,” said Dlamini-Zuma. “It is also another concrete step to broaden and deepen the relationship between the AU and the US.”
President Obama will deliver a speech to the continent and its leaders from the Nelson Mandela Hall at the AU Conference Centre, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Dlamini-Zuma will discuss with Mr. Obama and the business delegation that’s traveling with him Africa’s priority areas as articulated in the continent’s development agenda for the next 50 years, Agenda 2063.
The visit provides Dlamini Zuma and President Obama an opportunity to further discussions held in June 2013 in South Africa, and during the U.S.-Africa Summit in August 2014 in Washington DC.
The two will discuss, among other issues, the need to help Africa undergo a skills revolution to empower the youth and provide them with employment opportunities; agro-processing, industrialization and infrastructural development.
Education, youth and women’s empowerment, trade, investment, and peace and security and the fight against terrorism and extremism, are some of the issues expected to feature in the talks.
In 2013 President Obama pledged to work hard to strengthen Africa-US relations.
“We stand ready and eager to work with the African Union for the best engagement of the United States with Africa. If there is a strong African Union, any help that is provided by the US becomes more effective than us doing things on our own.”
Dlamini-Zuma’s deputy at the AU Commission, Erastus Mwench told a press conference Friday that Mr.Obama’s visit to Kenya and Ethiopia is good news for the continent, and East Africa in particular.
Africa, he said, is looking for ways to strengthen economic ties with the United States, particularly with Mr. Obama’s signing last month of a 10-year extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the U.S.' main trading authority with Africa.
Mwencha said Africa looks forward to having more countries added to the list of AGOA eligible countries.
“If you look at AGOA at the moment, just a few countries have made significant benefit out of it and very few products are still trading. There is potential to expand the product but also countries that can benefit from AGOA,” Mwencha said.
Mwencha said Africa also hopes President Obama’s visit will further strengthen security cooperation between the continent and the United States, especially capitalizing on the areas identified during last year’s U.S.-Africa leaders’ summit, hosted by President Obama in Washington.
“We have Al-Shabab; we have issues in South Sudan; the U.S. was quite instrumental in Mali and conflict areas. And so this is also an opportunity for us to agree on how to manage or confront the challenges that now face us, particularly on radicalization and extremism but also terrorism that is a menace not only in the region but globally,” Mwencha said.
President Obama arrived in Kenya Sunday after participating and speaking at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, Kenya.
He has visited Africa before while his tenure with trips to Ghana and Egypt in 2009 and South Africa, Senegal and Tanzania in 2013.