Obama eyes closer African ties

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iol news pic WAS913_AFRICA-SUMMIT-_0806_11 REUTERS U.S. President Barack Obama (bottom row, C) waits to depart with other leaders after a family photo for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit at the U.S. State Department in Washington. Pictured in the front row are Cape Verde's President Jorge Carlos Fonseca (Obscured, L-R), Cameroon's President Paul Biya, Mauritania's President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Obama, Namibia's President Hifikepunye Pohamba and African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini Zuma. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Washington - It is time for a new model of partnership between Africa and America, United States President Barack Obama said on Wednesday.

“A partnership of equals that focuses on African capacity to solve problems, and on Africa's capacity to grow... That's why we're here,” he said in his opening remarks at a discussion between leaders at the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington.

The first session of the summit would focus on investing in Africa's future.

President Jacob Zuma and African Union commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma were taking part in the discussions at the summit.

The sessions were closed to the media.

The second session would discuss peace and regional stability and the third governing for the next generation.

Obama said the sessions would give delegates an opportunity to make progress together in the three areas.

The summit had the opportunity to strengthen trade between the US and Africa, which would create new jobs.

Trade deals and investments were made during the summit.

“Today we can focus on what we can do, as governments, to accelerate that investment,” he said.

During the three-day summit the renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) was discussed.

The US Congress would decide next year if Agoa, which was signed in 2000, should be renewed.

African countries are pushing for 15-year renewal, saying it would help investor confidence.

Agoa is a non-reciprocal prefer trial scheme, which applies only to US imports from eligible Sub-Saharan Africa countries.

Obama has expressed his support for the renewal of Agoa.

Zuma and his delegation of ministers met US Senators to discuss the future of Agoa and South Africa's continued inclusion.

Obama on Wednesday said the summit was also an opportunity to strengthen economic growth and free societies, as well as an opportunity to deepen security co-operation against common threats.

City Press on Sunday reported that the SA National Defence Force would be sending soldiers back to the Central African Republic as early as October as part of the AU's African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (Acirc).

Other African countries had also signed up to put their armies on standby, in case of a crisis.

According to the report, they would be getting help from the controversial US Africa Command (Africom) with equipment and possibly transport, as most of the African continent's armies were short of funds. This was set to be finalised at the summit.

However, not all African countries are happy with Africom's involvement.

Obama said the summit would talk about how to strengthen Africa's capacity to meet transitional threats.

“We are here not just to talk. We are here to take action - concrete steps to build on Africa's progress and forge the partnerships of equals that we seek, tangible steps to deliver more prosperity, more security, and more justice to our citizens,” he said.

After the three sessions, Obama will give a closing press conference.

Zuma will leave Washington on Wednesday after the last session.

*Flight and hotel costs for Sapa's reporter covering the summit were paid by the presidency.*


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