Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 16, 1999
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON TO CONFERENCE ON U.S.-AFRICA PARTNERSHIP FOR THE 21ST CENTURY, Department of State, Washington, DC, March 16, 1999
9:38 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Good morning. Let me say, first of
all, to Minister Ouedrago, thank you for your fine address and for your
leadership. Secretary General Salim, Secretary General Annan, Secretary
Albright; to our distinguished ministers and ambassadors and other
officials from 46 African nations, and the representatives of the
Cabinet and the United States government. I am delighted to see you all
here today. We are honored by your presence in the United States and
excited about what it means for our common 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 to Africa in the
hope not only that I would learn, but that the process of the trip
itself and the publicity that our friends in the press would give it
would cause Americans and Africans to see each other in a new light --
not denying the lingering effects of slavery, colonialism, Cold War, but
to focus on a new future -- to build a new chapter of history, a new era
of genuine partnership.
A year later, we have to say there has been a fair measure of
hope, and some new disappointments. War still tears at the heart of
Africa. Congo, Sierra Leone, Angola, Sudan have not yet resolved their
conflicts. Ethiopia and Eritrea are mired in a truly tragic dispute we
have done our best to try to help avoid. Violence still steals innocent
lives in the Great Lakes region. In the last year, Nairobi and Dar es
Salaam became battlefields in a terrorist campaign that killed and
wounded thousands of Africans, along with Americans working there for a
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 transition may not be
complete, but let's not forget, just a year ago it was unthinkable.
This June, for the first time, South Africa will transfer power from one
fully democratic government to another.
More than half the Sub-Saharan nations are now governed by elected
leaders. Many, such as Benin, Mali and Tanzania, have fully embraced
open government and open markets. Quite a few have recorded strong
economic growth, including Mozambique, crippled by civil war not long
ago. Ghana's economy has grown by five percent a year since 1992.
All of you here have contributed to this progress. All are eager to
make the next century better than the last. You share a great
responsibility, for you are the architects of Africa's future.
Today, I would like to talk about the tangible ways we can move
forward with our partnership. Since our trip to Africa my
administration has worked hard to do more. We've created a $120
million educational initiative to link schools in Africa to schools in
this country. We've created the Great Lakes Justice Initiative to
attack the culture of impunity. We have launched a Safe Skies
Initiative to increase air links between Africa and the rest of the
world; given $30 million to protect food security in Africa and more to
be provided during this year.
In my budget submission to Congress I have asked for additional funds
to cover the cost of relieving another $237 million in African debt on
top of the $245 million covered in this year's appropriation.
We're working hard with you to bring an end to the armed conflicts
which claim innocent lives and block economic progress; conducting
extensive shuttle diplomacy in an effort to resolve the dispute between
Ethiopia and Eritrea. In Sierra Leon we're doing what we can to reduce
suffering and forge a lasting peace. We have provided $75 million in
humanitarian assistance over the last 18 months. And with the approval
of Congress we will triple our longstanding commitment of support for
ECOMOG to conduct regional peacekeeping.
We have also done what we can to build the Africa Crisis Response
Initiative, with members of our military cooperating with African
militaries. We've provided $8 million since 1993 to the OAU's Conflict
Management Center to support African efforts to resolve disputes and end
small conflicts before they explode into large ones.
Nonetheless, we have a lot of ground to make up. For too much of
this century, the relationship between the United States and Africa was
plagued by indifference on our part. This conference represents an
unparalleled opportunity to raise our growing cooperation to the next
level. During the next few days we want to talk about how these
programs work and hear from you about how we can do better. Eight
members of my Cabinet will meet their African counterparts. The message
I want your leaders to take home is this is a partnership with
substance, backed by a long-term commitment.
This is truly a relationship for the long haul. We have been too
separate and too unequal. We must end that by building a better common
future. We need to strive together to do better, with a clear vision of
what we want to achieve over the long run. Ten years from now, we want
to see more growth rates above five percent. A generation from now, we
want to see a larger middle class, more jobs and consumers, more African
exports, thriving schools filled with children -- boys and girls -- with
high expectations and a reasonable chance of fulfilling them.
But we need the tools to get there -- the tools of aid, trade, and
investment. As I said when I was in Africa, this must not be a choice
between aid and trade; we must have both. In my budget request for the
next fiscal year, I've asked for an increase of 10 percent in
development assistance to Africa. But the aid is about quality, and
quantity. Our aid programs are developed with your involvement,
designed to develop the institutions needed to sustain democracy and to
reduce poverty, and to increase independence.
To expand opportunity, we also need trade. Our administration
strongly supports the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which I said in
my State of the Union address we will work to pass in this session of
Congress. The act represents the first step in creating, for the first
time in our history, a genuine framework for U.S.-Africa trade
relations. It provides immediate benefits to nations modernizing their
economies, and offers incentives to others to do the same. It increases
U.S. assistance, targeting it where it will do the most good.
The bill clearly will benefit both Africa and the United States.
Africans ask for more access to our markets; this bill provides that.
You asked that GSP benefits be extended; this bill extends them for 10
years. You said you need more private investment; this bill calls for
the creation of two equity investment funds by OPIC, providing up to
$650 million to generate private investment in Africa.
We agree that labor concerns are important. This bill removes GSP
benefits for any country found to be denying worker rights. You told us
we need to understand more about your views on development. This bill
provides a forum for high-level dialogue and cooperation.
It is a principled and pragmatic approach based on what will work.
No one is saying it will be easy, but we are resolved to help lower the
hurdles left by past mistakes. I believe it represents a strong,
achievable and important step forward. There are many friends of Africa
in Congress and many strong opinions about how best to help Africa. I
hope they will quickly find consensus. We cannot afford a house
divided. Africa needs action now. (Applause.)
There's another crucial way the United States can hasten Africa's
immigration. One of the most serious issues we must deal with together,
and one of truly global importance is debt relief. Today, I ask the
international community to take actions which could result in forgiving
$70 billion in global debt relief -- global debt. Our goal is to ensure
that no country committed to fundamental reform is left with a debt
burden that keeps it from meeting its people's basic human needs and
spurring growth. We should provide extraordinary relief for countries
making extraordinary efforts to build working economies. (Applause.)
To achieve this goal, in consultation with our Congress and within
the framework of our balanced budget, I proposed that we make
significant improvements to the heavily-indebted Poor Countries
Initiative at the Cologne Summit of the G-7 in June. First, a new focus
on early relief by international financial institutions, which now
reduce debt only at the end of the HIPC program. Combined with ongoing
forgiveness of cash flows by the Paris Club, this will substantially
accelerate relief from debt payment burden.
Second, the complete forgiveness of all bilateral concessional loans
to the poorest countries. Third, deeper and broader reduction of other
bilateral debts, raising the amount to 90 percent. Fourth, to avoid
recurring debt problems, donor countries should commit to provide at
least 90 percent of new development assistance on a grant basis to
countries eligible for debt reduction.
Fifth, new approaches to help countries emerging from conflicts that
have not had the chance to establish reform records, and need immediate
relief and concessional finance. And, sixth, support for gold sales by
the IMF to do its part, and additional contributions by us and other
countries to the World Bank's trust fund to help meet the cost of this
initiative. Finally, we should be prepared to provide even greater
relief in exceptional cases where it could make a real difference.
What I am proposing is debt reduction that is deeper and faster. It
is demanding, but to put it simply, the more debtor nations take
responsibility for pursuing sound economic policies, the more creditor
nations must be willing to provide debt relief.
One of the best days of my trip last year was the day I opened an
investment center in Johannesburg, named after our late Commerce
Secretary, Ron Brown, a true visionary who knew that peace, democracy
and prosperity would grow in Africa with the right kind of support. I
can't think of a better tribute to him than our work here today, for he
understood that Africa's transformation 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 of millions of people
from poverty. It has nothing to do with latitude and longitude, or
religion or race. It has everything to do with an equal chance and
There are a thousand reasons Africa and the United States should work
together for the 21st century, reasons buried deep in our past, reasons
apparent in the future just ahead. It is the right thing to do, and it
is in the self-interest of all the peoples represented in this room
today. Africa obviously matters to the 30 million Americans who trace
their roots there. But Africa matters to all Americans. It provides 13
percent of our oil, nearly as much as the Middle East. Over 100,000
American jobs depend upon our exports to Africa. There could be
millions more when Africa realizes its potential. As Africa grows it
will need what we produce and we will need what Africa produces.
Africa is home to 700 million people, nearly a fifth of the world.
Last year, our growing relationship with this enormous market helped to
protect the United States from the global financial crisis raging
elsewhere. While exports were down in other parts of the world, exports
from the United States to Africa actually went up by eight percent,
topping $6 billion. As wise investors have discovered, investments in
Africa pay. In 1997, the rate of return of American investments in
Africa was 36 percent -- compared with 16 percent in Asia, 14 percent
worldwide, 11 percent in Europe.
As has already been said, we share common health and environmental
concerns with people all over the world, and certainly in Africa. If we
want to deal with the problems of global warming and climate change, we
must deal in partnership with Africa. If we want to deal with a whole
array of public health problems that affect not only the children and
people of Africa, but people throughout the rest of the world, we must
do it in partnership with Africa.
Finally, I'd like to just state a simple truth that guides our
relations with all nations. Countries that are democratic, peaceful and
prosperous are good neighbors and good partners. They help respond to
crises. They respect the environment. They abide by international law.
They protect their working people and their consumers. They honor women
as well as men. They give all their children a chance.
There are 46 nations represented here today -- roughly a quarter of
all the countries on Earth. You share a dazzling variety of people and
languages and traditions. The world of the 21st century needs your
strength, your contribution, your full participation in the struggle to
unleash the human potential of people everywhere. (Applause.)
Africa is the ancient cradle of humanity. But it is also a
remarkably young continent, full of young people with an enormous stake
in the future. When I traveled through the streets 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 to imagine what their lives could be like if we
could preserve the peace, preserve freedom, extend genuine opportunity,
give them a chance to have a life that was both full of liberty and
ordered, structured chances -- chances that their parents and
grandparents did not know.
The Kanuri people of Nigeria, Niger and Chad say, "hope is the pillar
of the world." The last decade proves that hope is stronger than
despair, if it is followed by action. Action is the mandate of this
Let us move beyond words, and do what needs to be done. For our
part, that means debt relief, passage of the Africa Growth and
Opportunity Act, appropriate increases in assistance, and a genuine
sense of partnership and openness to future possibilities. For your
part, it means continuing the work of building the institutions that
bring democracy and peace, prosperity and equal opportunity.
We are ending a decade, the 1990s, that began with a powerful symbol.
I will never forget the early Sunday morning in 1990, when I got my
daughter up and took her down to the kitchen to turn on the television
so that she could watch Nelson Mandela walk out of his prison for the
last time. She was just a young girl, and I told her that I had the
feeling that this would be one of the most important events of her
lifetime, in terms of its impact on the imagination of freedom-loving
We could not have known then, either she or I or my wife, that we
would have the great good fortune to get to know Mr. Mandela, and see
his generosity extended to our family, and to our child, as it has been
to children all over his country. But in that walk, we saw a
continent's expression of dignity, of self-respect, of the soaring
potential of the unfettered human spirit.
For a decade, now, the people of South Africa and the people of
Africa have been trying to make the symbol of that walk real in the
lives of all the people of the continent. We still have a long way to
go. But let us not forget how far we have come. And let us not forget
that greatness resides not only in the people who lead countries and who
overcome persecutions, but in the heart and mind of every child, and
every person -- there is the potential to do better, to reach higher, to
fulfill dreams. It is our job to give all the children of Africa the
chance to do that.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 10:00 A.M. EST
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