WASHINGTON DC —
The United States says all is set for the historic US-Africa Summit which begins in Washington DC Monday, bringing over 50 African Heads of State to discuss the future of their continent with President Barack Obama.
Administration officials say the summit is an opportunity to discuss the future of an economically growing continent and how the U.S. can become a closer partner.
Speaking as she departed Addis Ababa Friday to join about 50 African Heads of State and Government at the summit in Washington DC, African Union Commission Chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the meeting offers a great opportunity to Africans and their leaders to further refine their reflections on, “the Africa we want, and how to make it happen, with the support of partners such as the United States”.
"Therefore, I look forward to discussing with the leaders about how we can drive strategies such a skills revolution for our young girls and boys, on financially and technically supporting the energy generation, infrastructural development that fast-track our regional integration agenda, and more as we envision our Agenda 2063," Dr. Dlamini Zuma said.
Dlamini-Zuma’s spokesperson Jacob Enoh Eben told VOA although invited on individual basis, Africa is expected to speak at the summit from a common position on areas which are of critical importance to the continent’s future.
“For a long time African Heads of State, as you know, going to some of these meetings, they had sort of shopping lists that were limited to their various national projects but we think that doesn’t take us far,” said Eben.
He adds African leaders agreed at their June summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, to reflect and pull their resources together and make sure they chart a future that will benefit the whole continent and not individual regions or countries.
Eben said the summit offered a great opportunity in line with the AU’s commitment and call for a skills revolution to develop the growing continent.
Summit discussions and other side engagements with corporate America are expected to further strengthen cooperation between Africa and the US at continental level, building upon existing strong bilateral and regional cooperation.
The summit will focus on three sub-themes: Investing in Africa’s Future; Peace, and Regional Security; Governing for the Next Generation.
According to the Brookings Institute, the summit “provides an opportunity for the Obama administration to open a new chapter in U.S-Africa relations, moving from interaction on the bilateral level to a continent-wide engagement”.
“The upcoming summit provides access to nearly all of the leaders of Africa, especially small and infrequently visited nations, and bilateral meetings help to instill confidence and credibility in United States,” says the institute, adding this is a diplomatic and symbolic opportunity that should not be missed.
The leaders will discuss shared interests needed for Africa to meet the needs of its young people; including health care, education, and opportunities in the work place.
Many say the first goal is to ensure peace and stability that is much needed for development.
Also on the agenda is economic security.
On Tuesday, African leaders will meet with government officials at a US-Africa business forum.
The gathering, which will bring together 200 US and African companies, will also look at ways to boost trade and investment, and strengthen financial ties.
An important part of US trade with Africa trade is the popular African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA.
It gives African countries with a good record of economic management and human rights, duty-free access to US markets.
Today, Africa sells about seven thousand products to the US, worth about $27 billion dollars. Over 20 countries take part in AGOA, but US officials say more could take part.
Summit participants will look at extending and improving the fourteen-year-old AGOA law.
Not invited to the historic summit over their rights records are the presidents of Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Sudan and the Central African Republic.
Zimbabwe ruling Zanu-PF party spokesman Rugare Gumbo dismissed the summit saying Zimbabwe will not miss anything from Mr. Mugabe’s absence, quipping invited African leaders are in Washington DC to sip tea with Mr. Obama.
"As far as we are concerned, our line is that we look East," said Gumbo. "This one is a non-event, it doesn't affect us at all. It may affect other African countries but not us so those African leaders going to the meeting, let them go and we will see how much help they will get from Obama."
Political analyst Charles Mangongera, a former advisor of the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC formation, though agreeing Zimbabwe may not miss much by not participating, differs with Gumbo’s take on the summit.
“I don’t think that in terms of the economy and trade balance, Zimbabwe stands to lose much,” said Mangongera.
“This is President Obama's effort to strengthen relations between the US and Africa. But primarily in terms of global trade, this is something that benefits America because America is looking for opportunities and markets in Africa, which has been touted as an emerging market… in the context of China-Africa relations,” said Mangongera.
Similar summits are held annually between African and Japan, China, Europe and India.
But unlike China’s recent Africa summit, the US one won't have one-on-one meetings between President Obama and the African leaders.
President Obama is expected to meet with all the leaders Wednesday at the Heads of State summit.
Meanwhile, the AU Chairperson will on Sunday deliver an opening address at the "Believe in Africa Day" an Africa Diaspora-led initiative to showcase business opportunities in Africa.