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US-Africa Summit to Focus on Security, Economics

President Obama, in July 28 file photo, speaks at the Presidential Summit for the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in Washington.
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Top African and American officials – including President Barack Obama – are meeting August fourth through the sixth in Washington, D.C. They will discuss security, economics and how the U.S. can work more closely with African countries.

Officials are especially interested in meeting the needs of Africa’s young people. They want the next generation to have health care, education and work possibilities.

However, some countries do not have the peace and security they need to reach those goals. For example, violence in the Central African Republic and South Sudan has created humanitarian emergencies. Nigeria and Somalia are fighting Islamist extremists.

Officials at the conference will discuss how to ensure security across Africa.

Joseph Siegle is the director of research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at National Defense University in Washington, D.C. He said the national militaries of some countries need to change.

Mr. Siegle said Africa’s police and military are not always very professional. They may react too strongly to security threats and kill innocent people. He said, as a result, citizens can lose their trust in the police.

Officials at the summit will also discuss economic security. On Tuesday, African leaders, U.S. government officials and members of over 200 companies will hold a business meeting. They will consider ways to improve trade and investment.

One way is to expand the popular African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA. The act permits about 20 African countries to sell their goods in American markets without paying taxes.

Officials at the summit will also discuss governance in Africa. But some civil society activists want officials to focus more on human rights and democratic reforms. They are unhappy they were not invited to any of the discussions with African leaders.

Adam Shapiro is a member of the human rights group Front Line Defenders. He said U.S. officials should use human rights and good governance to make this conference different. China, India, Japan and Russia recently held their own investment meetings with African leaders.

“In those summits there was very low expectation from Africa that any kind of issues around governance, or human rights, or transparency, or corruption, would be brought up, at those summits But when it comes to the United States there is an expectation that these kinds of issues would be on the table.”

In China’s recent Africa meeting, the Chinese president met individually with African leaders. President Obama does not plan to meet separately with African heads-of-state. However, he will spend the day Wednesday meeting with African leaders at a special gathering. In addition, African and business leaders will be able to meet other top U.S. government officials during some of the events.