President Obama pledged increased collaboration with the African Union
United States President, H.E. Barack Obama with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 29 June 2013.
Johannesburg, South Africa - 29 June, 2013: “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.” United States President, H.E. Barack Obama told the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma when they met in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 29 June 2013.
President Obama also highlighted the great opportunity existing for cooperation with Africa in various areas under the leadership of the AUC Chairperson.
Being the maiden official encounter between the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and a sitting US President, Dr. Dlamini Zuma and President Barack Obama exchanged views on areas of mutual interest aimed at boosting the AU-US partnership.
Focus of their conversations was on development, food security, trade, infrastructure, energy and security, with emphasis on building the capacity of women and youth across these areas. “Women and youth,” Dr. Dlamini Zuma highlighted, “remain at the centre of any development efforts, as they will be the drivers towards prosperity.” She called for more US support to academic and research institutions to strengthen their capacity for skills development on the continent.
President Obama assured Dr. Dlamini Zuma of the many areas of cooperation, and expressed the US’s willingness to work together to ensure mutual benefits for the US and African countries.
Identifying the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which has benefitted a number of African countries, President Obama said the timing is just right to find ways to improve its performance given its renewal due in 2015. However, the AUC Chairperson noted the importance of extending AGOA to impact on economic growth, unity and integration of the continent. About 38 of 54 African countries currently benefit from AGOA.
Dr. Dlamini Zuma expressed her concern over the possibilities of Africa losing the benefits of AGOA in the US-EU transatlantic trade agreement. Nevertheless, President Obama reassured that rather than being a threat to Africa, it will be an opportunity to enhance trade and investment opportunities for US and African companies. “We hope to work with the private sector to invest in infrastructure.” President Obama promised.
Africa presents enormous investment opportunities in transport and communication infrastructure, as well as energy, including clean and renewable energy. Recalling his initiative presented during the last G8 Summit in Northern Ireland, President Obama said the US is ready to send teams of negotiators to help African countries to better negotiate contracts in the extractive industries. The AUC Chairperson welcomed this initiative, emphasizing the importance of increasing processing on the continent, which will both create jobs locally and increase local revenue.
In the area of peace and security, President Obama congratulated AMISOM for a great job done in Somalia, amidst the enormous challenges. He encouraged the AU and its member States not to pull out fast from Somalia. He equally noted the situation in South and South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Central Africa Republic and in Uganda with the Lord Resistance Army. He extended his government’s readiness to provide support in any ways that it could, including building capacity. But he quickly added that local support from the region will be needed.
Welcoming President Obama’s offer of assistance, Dr. Dlamini Zuma assured him that the AU and its member States cannot pull immediately from Somalia. She underscored the help needed by those countries. However, she called for a more comprehensive approach to tackling the recurrent issues of insecurity in those countries in particularly, and Africa in general.
The two leaders promised to remain engaged on these issues.