|For Immediate Release||March 16, 1999|
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Good morning. Let me say,first of all, to Minister Ouedrago, thank you for your fine addressand for your leadership. Secretary General Salim, Secretary GeneralAnnan, Secretary Albright; to our distinguished ministers andambassadors and other officials from 46 African nations, and therepresentatives of the Cabinet and the United States government. Iam delighted to see you all here today. We are honored by yourpresence in the United States and excited about what it means for ourcommon future.
A year ago next week I set out on my journey to Africa.It was, for me, for my wife, and for many people who took that trip,an utterly unforgettable and profoundly moving experience. I went toAfrica in the hope not only that I would learn, but that the processof the trip itself and the publicity that our friends in the presswould give it would cause Americans and Africans to see each other ina new light -- not denying the lingering effects of slavery,colonialism, Cold War, but to focus on a new future -- to build a newchapter of history, a new era of genuine partnership.
A year later, we have to say there has been a fairmeasure of hope, and some new disappointments. War still tears atthe heart of Africa. Congo, Sierra Leone, Angola, Sudan have not yetresolved their conflicts. Ethiopia and Eritrea are mired in a trulytragic dispute we have done our best to try to help avoid. Violencestill steals innocent lives in the Great Lakes region. In the lastyear, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam became battlefields in a terroristcampaign that killed and wounded thousands of Africans, along withAmericans working there for a different future.
But there have also been promising new developments.The recent elections in Nigeria give Africa's most populous country,finally, a chance to realize its enormous potential. The transitionmay not be complete, but let's not forget, just a year ago it wasunthinkable. This June, for the first time, South Africa willtransfer power from one fully democratic government to another.
More than half the Sub-Saharan nations are now governedby elected leaders. Many, such as Benin, Mali and Tanzania, havefully embraced open government and open markets. Quite a few haverecorded strong economic growth, including Mozambique, crippled bycivil war not long ago. Ghana's economy has grown byfive percent a year since 1992.
All of you here have contributed to this progress. Allare eager to make the next century better than the last. Youshare a great responsibility, for you are the architects ofAfrica's future.
Today, I would like to talk about the tangible ways wecan move forward with our partnership. Since our trip to Africamy administration has worked hard to do more. We've created a$120 million educational initiative to link schools in Africa toschools in this country. We've created the Great Lakes JusticeInitiative to attack the culture of impunity. We have launched aSafe Skies Initiative to increase air links between Africa andthe rest of the world; given $30 million to protect food securityin Africa and more to be provided during this year.
In my budget submission to Congress I have asked foradditional funds to cover the cost of relieving another $237million in African debt on top of the $245 million covered inthis year's appropriation.
We're working hard with you to bring an end to thearmed conflicts which claim innocent lives and block economicprogress; conducting extensive shuttle diplomacy in an effort toresolve the dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea. In Sierra Leonwe're doing what we can to reduce suffering and forge a lastingpeace. We have provided $75 million in humanitarian assistanceover the last 18 months. And with the approval of Congress wewill triple our longstanding commitment of support for ECOMOG toconduct regional peacekeeping.
We have also done what we can to build the AfricaCrisis Response Initiative, with members of our militarycooperating with African militaries. We've provided $8 millionsince 1993 to the OAU's Conflict Management Center to supportAfrican efforts to resolve disputes and end small conflictsbefore they explode into large ones.
Nonetheless, we have a lot of ground to make up. Fortoo much of this century, the relationship between the UnitedStates and Africa was plagued by indifference on our part. Thisconference represents an unparalleled opportunity to raise ourgrowing cooperation to the next level. During the next few dayswe want to talk about how these programs work and hear from youabout how we can do better. Eight members of my Cabinet willmeet their African counterparts. The message I want your leadersto take home is this is a partnership with substance, backed by along-term commitment.
This is truly a relationship for the long haul. Wehave been too separate and too unequal. We must end that bybuilding a better common future. We need to strive together todo better, with a clear vision of what we want to achieve overthe long run. Ten years from now, we want to see more growthrates above five percent. A generation from now, we want to seea larger middle class, more jobs and consumers, more Africanexports, thriving schools filled with children -- boys and girls-- with high expectations and a reasonable chance of fulfillingthem.
But we need the tools to get there -- the tools of aid,trade, and investment. As I said when I was in Africa, this mustnot be a choice between aid and trade; we must have both. In mybudget request for the next fiscal year, I've asked for anincrease of 10 percent in development assistance to Africa. Butthe aid is about quality, and quantity. Our aid programs aredeveloped with your involvement, designed to develop theinstitutions needed to sustain democracy and to reduce poverty,and to increase independence.
To expand opportunity, we also need trade. Ouradministration strongly supports the Africa Growth andOpportunity Act, which I said in my State of the Union address wewill work to pass in this session of Congress. The actrepresents the first step in creating, for the first time in ourhistory, a genuine framework for U.S.-Africa trade relations. Itprovides immediate benefits to nations modernizing theireconomies, and offers incentives to others to do the same. Itincreases U.S. assistance, targeting it where it will do the mostgood.
The bill clearly will benefit both Africa and theUnited States. Africans ask for more access to our markets; thisbill provides that. You asked that GSP benefits be extended;this bill extends them for 10 years. You said you need moreprivate investment; this bill calls for the creation of twoequity investment funds by OPIC, providing up to $650 million togenerate private investment in Africa.
We agree that labor concerns are important. This billremoves GSP benefits for any country found to be denying workerrights. You told us we need to understand more about your viewson development. This bill provides a forum for high-leveldialogue and cooperation.
It is a principled and pragmatic approach based on whatwill work. No one is saying it will be easy, but we are resolvedto help lower the hurdles left by past mistakes. I believe itrepresents a strong, achievable and important step forward.There are many friends of Africa in Congress and many strongopinions about how best to help Africa. I hope they will quicklyfind consensus. We cannot afford a house divided. Africa needsaction now. (Applause.)
There's another crucial way the United States canhasten Africa's integration. One of the most serious issues wemust deal with together, and one of truly global importance isdebt relief. Today, I ask the international community to takeactions which could result in forgiving $70 billion in globaldebt relief -- global debt. Our goal is to ensure that nocountry committed to fundamental reform is left with a debtburden that keeps it from meeting its people's basic human needsand spurring growth. We should provide extraordinary relief forcountries making extraordinary efforts to build workingeconomies. (Applause.)
To achieve this goal, in consultation with our Congressand within the framework of our balanced budget, I proposed thatwe make significant improvements to the heavily-indebted PoorCountries Initiative at the Cologne Summit of the G-7 in June.First, a new focus on early relief by international financialinstitutions, which now reduce debt only at the end of the HIPCprogram. Combined with ongoing forgiveness of cash flows by theParis Club, this will substantially accelerate relief from debtpayment burden.
Second, the complete forgiveness of all bilateralconcessional loans to the poorest countries. Third, deeper andbroader reduction of other bilateral debts, raising the amount to90 percent. Fourth, to avoid recurring debt problems, donorcountries should commit to provide at least 90 percent of newdevelopment assistance on a grant basis to countries eligible fordebt reduction.
Fifth, new approaches to help countries emerging fromconflicts that have not had the chance to establish reformrecords, and need immediate relief and concessional finance.And, sixth, support for gold sales by the IMF to do its part, andadditional contributions by us and other countries to the WorldBank's trust fund to help meet the cost of this initiative.Finally, we should be prepared to provide even greater relief inexceptional cases where it could make a real difference.
What I am proposing is debt reduction that is deeperand faster. It is demanding, but to put it simply, the moredebtor nations take responsibility for pursuing sound economicpolicies, the more creditor nations must be willing to providedebt relief.
One of the best days of my trip last year was the day Iopened an investment center in Johannesburg, named after our lateCommerce Secretary, Ron Brown, a true visionary who knew thatpeace, democracy and prosperity would grow in Africa with theright kind of support. I can't think of a better tribute to himthan our work here today, for he understood that Africa'stransformation will not happen overnight, but on the other hand,that it should happen and that it could happen.
Look at Latin America's progress over the last decade.Look at Asia before that. In each case, the same formula worked:Peace, open markets, democracy and hard work lifted hundreds ofmillions of people from poverty. It has nothing to do withlatitude and longitude, or religion or race. It has everythingto do with an equal chance and smart decisions.
There are a thousand reasons Africa and the UnitedStates should work together for the 21st century, reasons burieddeep in our past, reasons apparent in the future just ahead. Itis the right thing to do, and it is in the self-interest of allthe peoples represented in this room today. Africa obviouslymatters to the 30 million Americans who trace their roots there.But Africa matters to all Americans. It provides 13 percent ofour oil, nearly as much as the Middle East. Over 100,000American jobs depend upon our exports to Africa. There could bemillions more when Africa realizes its potential. As Africagrows it will need what we produce and we will need what Africaproduces.
Africa is home to 700 million people, nearly a fifth ofthe world. Last year, our growing relationship with thisenormous market helped to protect the United States from theglobal financial crisis raging elsewhere. While exports weredown in other parts of the world, exports from the United Statesto Africa actually went up by eight percent, topping $6 billion.As wise investors have discovered, investments in Africa pay. In1997, the rate of return of American investments in Africa was 36percent -- compared with 16 percent in Asia, 14 percentworldwide, 11 percent in Europe.
As has already been said, we share common health andenvironmental concerns with people all over the world, andcertainly in Africa. If we want to deal with the problems ofglobal warming and climate change, we must deal in partnershipwith Africa. If we want to deal with a whole array of publichealth problems that affect not only the children and people ofAfrica, but people throughout the rest of the world, we must doit in partnership with Africa.
Finally, I'd like to just state a simple truth thatguides our relations with all nations. Countries that aredemocratic, peaceful and prosperous are good neighbors and goodpartners. They help respond to crises. They respect theenvironment. They abide by international law. They protecttheir working people and their consumers. They honor women aswell as men. They give all their children a chance.
There are 46 nations represented here today -- roughlya quarter of all the countries on Earth. You share a dazzlingvariety of people and languages and traditions. The world of the21st century needs your strength, your contribution, your fullparticipation in the struggle to unleash the human potential ofpeople everywhere. (Applause.)
Africa is the ancient cradle of humanity. But it isalso a remarkably young continent, full of young people with anenormous stake in the future. When I traveled through thestreets of the African cities and I saw the tens of thousands,the hundreds of thousands of young people who came out to see me,I wanted them to have long, full, healthy lives. I tried toimagine what their lives could be like if we could preserve thepeace, preserve freedom, extend genuine opportunity, give them achance to have a life that was both full of liberty and ordered,structured chances -- chances that their parents and grandparentsdid not know.
The Kanuri people of Nigeria, Niger and Chad say, "hopeis the pillar of the world." The last decade proves that hope isstronger than despair, if it is followed by action. Action isthe mandate of this conference.
Let us move beyond words, and do what needs to be done.For our part, that means debt relief, passage of the AfricaGrowth and Opportunity Act, appropriate increases in assistance,and a genuine sense of partnership and openness to futurepossibilities. For your part, it means continuing the work ofbuilding the institutions that bring democracy and peace,prosperity and equal opportunity.
We are ending a decade, the 1990s, that began with apowerful symbol. I will never forget the early Sunday morning in1990, when I got my daughter up and took her down to the kitchento turn on the television so that she could watch Nelson Mandelawalk out of his prison for the last time. She was just a younggirl, and I told her that I had the feeling that this would beone of the most important events of her lifetime, in terms of itsimpact on the imagination of freedom-loving people everywhere.
We could not have known then, either she or I or mywife, that we would have the great good fortune to get to knowMr. Mandela, and see his generosity extended to our family, andto our child, as it has been to children all over his country.But in that walk, we saw a continent's expression of dignity, ofself-respect, of the soaring potential of the unfettered humanspirit.
For a decade, now, the people of South Africa and thepeople of Africa have been trying to make the symbol of that walkreal in the lives of all the people of the continent. We stillhave a long way to go. But let us not forget how far we havecome. And let us not forget that greatness resides not only inthe people who lead countries and who overcome persecutions, butin the heart and mind of every child, and every person -- thereis the potential to do better, to reach higher, to fulfilldreams. It is our job to give all the children of Africa thechance to do that.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
What's New - March 1999
The People Of Nicaragua
Kosovo At A Photo Opportunity
Rabin Center Event
Statement on Kosovo
Event with Congressional Leaders
AFSCME Biennial Convention
150th Anniversary of the Department of Interior
Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown
Italian Prime Minister D'Alema
Airstrikes in the Former Yugoslavia
Legislative Assembly of El Salvador
Opening of the Central American Summit
Close of the Central American Summit
Dedication of His Boyhood Home
Departure for Camp David
Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher
1998 Social Security Trustees Report
U.S.-Africa Partnership for the 21st Century
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