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US, African Leaders Meet in Washington

Secretary of State John Kerry, right, shakes hands with Tunisia Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014, during the US Africa Summit.
Secretary of State John Kerry, right, shakes hands with Tunisia Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014, during the US Africa Summit.
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President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials are holding a three- day conference in Washington with almost 50 African leaders.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at the Africa Summit about African civil society. He urged delegates to support democracy and individual rights in their countries. He said a society is wealthier and more secure when people can trust their government. He also said it is less likely to become violent and is less open to extremists.

Mr. Kerry also spoke about economic goals at an earlier meeting.

“Prosperity can actually replace poverty. And cooperation can actually triumph over conflict.”

He urged African ministers to support the free market and cooperation between the United States and Africa.

“I say unabashedly, we want and we will work hard to get more American companies to invest in Africa. We also want more African companies to invest here in the United States. There is no reason that they shouldn’t.”

Mr. Kerry also urged the African leaders to end corruption in their countries.

“To do so will take courage and yes, it sometimes means assuming risks. But fighting corruption lifts more than a country’s balance sheet. Transparency and accountability attract greater investment. Transparency and accountability create a more competitive marketplace.”

Mr. Kerry was to meet with at least eight African leaders separately on Monday.

President Obama will speak to the African leaders on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he will take part in meetings about economic growth, security, and proper governance.

The U.S. will release information at the conference about new business deals with Africa worth almost one billion dollars. American officials also will announce plans to provide more money for peacekeeping operations and billions of dollars for food and power programs.

One of those programs is called Power Africa. It is designed to add 10,000 megawatts of electricity and 20 million new electricity users in Africa by 2018. President Obama announced the program last year. Private companies have promised to invest seven billion dollars since then.

The Obama administration says it did not plan this conference in reaction to China’s increasing investment in Africa. China, Europe and Japan have all held similar gatherings to support investment in Africa.

American businesses have made only limited investments in Africa although many countries on the continent have experienced high rates of growth.

Some African countries have said they will work during this week’s summit to push for more U.S. help. For example, South Africa has already said it will ask the Obama administration to extend the African Growth and Opportunity Act for 15 years.

The law reduces import taxes for goods made in some African countries south of the Saharan Desert and exported to the United States. The law went into effect in 2000. It is set to end next year.

U.S. officials say four African leaders were not invited to the meeting -- the presidents of Zimbabwe, Sudan, Eritrea and the Central African Republic.

The summit is happening at the same time as several West African nations are facing a sudden spread of Ebola infections. On Friday, President Obama said the United States is closely following the situation. He said medical workers would closely examine African officials from countries with high rates of Ebola infections before they enter the U.S.

The leaders of Sierra Leone and Liberia are not attending this week’s meeting in Washington because of the Ebola outbreak.

I’m Caty Weaver.

This story was written in Special English by Christopher Cruise from a report by the VOA Newsroom in Washington and Pam Dockins reporting from the State Department. It was edited by Caty Weaver.


Words in the News

invest v. to give money to a business or organization with the hope of making more money

delegate n. one sent to act for another; one who represents another

conference n. a meeting

cooperate v. to act or work together

administration – n. the executive part of a government, usually headed by a president or prime minister

Now it’s your turn to use these words in the news. In the comment section, write a sentence using one of these words and we will provide feedback on the use of vocabulary and grammar.