The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit kicked off in Washington DC on Monday with calls for the strengthening of state institutions in Africa to enforce democracy and curb corruption.
U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, told a civil society forum that non-governmental organizations and state officials attending the three-day event should promote democratic ideals to create prosperous and stable nations.
Kerry said an empowered civil society was the foundation of a successful democracy, adding the U.S. would continue to fund non-governmental organizations to promote good governance in Africa.
He said Africa was the new center for global growth, adding among other things, banking assets have more than doubled since 2000.
"The telecommunications market has more than doubled since 2004 alone, and we know that Africa will have a larger workforce than India or China by 2040," said Kerry.
"So, it’s time simply, to get ahead of the curve to invest in education, above all fighting corruption is a definitive part of that process.”
He said curbing graft would need a lot of courage and risk-taking as “fighting corruption lifts more than a country’s balance sheet”.
Kerry told the gathering that transparency and accountability also attract great investment.
“Transparency and accountability create a more competitive market place, one where ideas are judged by their markets and merits and not by a backroom deal or bribe …”
Speaking at the same event, South Africa’s Deputy Public Service Minister Ayanda Dlodlo noted that civil society should work with governments to promote good governance.
She said African leaders should also work hard to empower common people at the grassroots level by allowing divergent views in their nations.
Three panelists – Malawi Foreign Affairs Minister George Chiponda, Tanzania’s Civil Society leader Rakesh Rajani, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power – expressed the hope that African governments would work with civil society to promote democracy in their nations.
Secretary Kerry also held individual meetings with at least eight African leaders Monday.
President Barack Obama is set to address a U.S.-Africa Business Forum Tuesday and take part in sessions focusing on economic growth, regional security and good governance on Wednesday.
The United States is expected to unveil nearly $1 billion in business deals, more funding for peacekeeping, and billions of dollars for food and power programs during the summit.
Some African nations are accessing U.S. markets under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a piece of legislation allowing them to sell goods to Americans without paying customs duty.
Indications are that billions of dollars in new funding is expected to be announced for Power Africa during the summit.
The program’s goal is to add 10,000 megawatts of generation capacity and 20 million new electric customers in Africa by 2018.
In another session, the summit focused on U.S. Support for Combating Wildlife Trafficking.
The White House released a statement saying; “Over the past five years, tens of thousands of elephants have been slaughtered by poachers and criminal networks in Africa.”
In 2013, more than 1,000 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone, and the pace of killing is on track to surpass this record in 2014, the statement said.
"Urgent action is needed now and the United States is providing leadership and commitment to protecting our world heritage and endangered wildlife.”
Poachers in Zimbabwe last year killed more than 300 elephants and countless other safari animals using cyanide poisoning in Hwange, the country’s largest national park.
President Gnassingbé Eyadema of Togo, President Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia, President Omar Bongo of Gabon, and President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, were featured in the event due to their roles in combating the illegal trade in ivory on the continent.
Leaders that have been left out of summit include President Robert Mugabe and his counterparts from Sudan, Eritrea and the Central African Republic.