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Diplomacy in Action

Building Americans' Engagement With Sub-Saharan Africa


Interview
Cheryl Benton
   Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
Johnnie Carson
   Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
John Norris, Executive Director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative, Center for American Progress and Jennifer Cooke, Director of the Africa Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Washington, DC
September 14, 2012

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MS. BENTON: Hello. I’m Cheryl Benton, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Public Affairs, and I’d like to welcome you to Conversations With America.

Today, we are here to discuss building Americans’ engagement with Sub-Saharan Africa. We’ll address both the opportunities and the challenges that the U.S. Government and nongovernmental organizations face when partnering with Africa. Now let’s introduce the experts that will be joining us for this discussion.

We are privileged to have with us Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Public Affairs – of African Affairs; Jennifer Cooke, Director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; and John Norris, Executive Director of the Sustainable Security at the Center for American Progress.

Thank you all so much for participating in today’s program.

MS. COOKE: Thank you.

AMBASSADOR CARSON: Thank you.

MS. BENTON: So in July of 2009, President Obama gave a speech to the Ghanaian Parliament, calling for a partnership with Africa that is grounded in mutual responsibility and in mutual respect. His Administration has continued to pursue this goal, and in June of 2012, the President signed a new Presidential Policy Directive with respect to U.S. policy toward Sub-Saharan Africa. Its vision and principles have been distilled into the U.S. strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ambassador Carson, could you start us off by providing an overview of this very important policy directive initiated by President Obama?

AMBASSADOR CARSON: Cheryl, thank you very much for inviting me to this –

MS. BENTON: Absolutely.

AMBASSADOR CARSON: -- important program today. The President, as you pointed out, asked the Department of State to work with the National Security Council staff to assess the policies that we have been pursuing in Africa since the beginning of the Administration, to review them, and to determine whether they remained relevant for us over the next three or four years. As a result of that review, we did in fact complete an assessment in which we said that the U.S. Government should follow four strategic pillars.

The first was to strengthen democratic institutions and to promote democracy and good governance.

The second pillar was to do everything that we could to spur market-driven – free market-driven economic policies to encourage greater trade and investment by the United States in Africa, and to help Africa strengthen its own economic foundations, develop its industries and its agriculture, and its economies.

The third pillar was to do everything that we could to promote peace and security around the African continent. As people well know, instability, civil war, civil strife destroys the lives of people, undermines economic development, and robs countries and citizens of opportunity. And so the third pillar was to do as much as we could to continue our efforts to promote peace and stability.

The fourth pillar was to help Africa deal with its development issues, and behind that was a very explicit commitment by the Administration to continue to strengthen Africa’s agriculture through the Feed the Future program; to work with African governments to improve their health; to address issues of HIV, AIDS, Malaria, Cholera, and Tuberculosis through the Global Health Initiative.

But those are the four basic pillars that were outlined in the strategy, and they build off of the President’s speech in July of ’09 to the Ghanaian Parliament, and they build off a number of speeches and commitments that have been made since then by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But those pillars are the things that we’re focused on, and I certainly can go into greater detail about how we’ve attempted to implement those pillars in the past, and what we will be doing in the future.

MS. BENTON: Okay, very good. I’ll go first to John and then to Jennifer to ask you if you will both talk a little bit about your roles at CAP and your role at CSIS, and how your work relates to this initiative.

MR. NORRIS: Sure. The sustainable security program at CAP really looks at how we can make America’s instruments of international engagement more effective, particularly in a place like Africa; how we can shore up peace processes; how we can shift to an approach that is more built around crisis prevention rather than response; and try to get the balance right between those instruments that America relies on in terms of defense, in terms of diplomacy, in terms of doing those basic things that would help the United States be a little less reliant on a military approach to the world, and finding and realizing that diplomacy and development are usually a little more cost-effective and can advance our interests just as well if used properly.

MS. BENTON: Very good. Jennifer?

MS. COOKE: Yeah, I mean, in fact, CSIS Africa Program – the priorities are very similar to the pillars that Ambassador Carson laid out: governance, security, trade and investment, and development.

There’s a tendency to paint Africa with a very broad brush and see it as a monolith, and one of the things we try to do is to kind of convey and try to understand the specific political, economic, social context of particular countries, particular regions, and what is it that’s stymieing good governments, what are the levers for reform, who are the constituencies for reform, what are the vulnerabilities that maybe we’re not seeing, where are the opportunities for U.S. influence, how does the U.S. – how might the U.S. calibrate its diplomatic security development engagement in them. So kind of trying to get across, I think, a little bit more nuanced understanding of the countries at hand.

We’re doing more and more on trade and investment, because I think this is a huge opportunity in Africa in the future. And there, we’re looking at some of the positive stories – how are African entrepreneurs or African governments or businesses untangling some of these longstanding barriers to investment – and helping encourage U.S. investors to look more seriously at Africa. And then what might be – how might the U.S. kind of leverage the business sector’s development impact and make that kind of inclusive growth that we’re talking about.

And just a final word: One of the things we really try to do is integrate into all of these efforts African perspectives and highlight African voices here in Washington – make sure their views, the debates that are going on within Africa, are well understood here in Washington.

MS. BENTON: Very good. In what areas does President Obama expect greater involvement with Sub-Saharan Africa?

AMBASSADOR CARSON: Let me say that we believe that Africa is the last global economic frontier and that Africa offers an enormous amount of promise and potential as a major trading partner, as a place for Americans to invest and do substantially much more business than they are doing right now.

We want to put an expanded emphasis on trade, investment, in order to encourage more American companies to look at the prospects of doing business in Africa, but also recognizing that there is a mutuality of interest, and that this trade and investment will help to spur real economic growth in Africa with the development of its agriculture, not just to end household famine and food shortages, but to help African countries develop agro-industry –

MS. BENTON: Exactly.

AMBASSADOR CARSON: -- where they can make money off of this, and to work with African countries to develop their enormous potential in electricity, hydroelectric power, gas-driven power, solar and natural energy-driven power, to help them develop their industries, to build their infrastructure. And so we believe that there is an enormous opportunity for mutual interest in developing the economy.

Secretary Clinton, this August, took a trade mission to South Africa, took a number of leading American companies and their leadership to South Africa to help introduce them to the potential in the African market, not only in South Africa but in the broader region. This past February, I took some 12 American companies to a number of countries – Tanzania, Mozambique, Ghana, and to Nigeria – to look at the enormous potential that exists for American companies in the area of generation and transmission and distribution of electricity, something that Africa is short on. This is something good for the United States. We have a lot to offer in this area. But it’s also enormously important for Africa. If Africa is going to make that next major leap forward, it needs to develop its energy.

So we think there is enormous potential. The focus will be increasingly on economic, commercial issues, and we think this is mutually beneficial for the continent and also for America.

MS. BENTON: Very good. I’m curious; does Sub-Saharan Africa hold strategic interest for the United States, and if so, what are they?

MR. NORRIS: Well, I certainly agree with the Ambassador’s point that Africa is just an area of incredible economic dynamism right now. And I think every economist, every foreign policy expert rightly points to that being one of the under-told stories of Africa right now. So there’s the economic side, but I think there’s a real threat on the economic side as well and a real challenge.

I think one of the economic challenges that’s particularly tricky for the United States Government is that a lot of the economic obstacles in Africa to even more impressive growth are those barriers between states. And I think Secretary Clinton has been very forceful in conversations with African heads of states; they need to do a better job making it so that it doesn’t take several days to get a truck from the interior of Africa to the coast, to deal with some of those tariffs and customs issues that are very pedestrian and very annoying but hugely influential in how you do trade.

And at the same time, the other threat on economic dynamism is also another area of security interest for the United States, is there’s a whole swath of Africa right now, kind from Mali over to Somalia right now, that is very vulnerable right now for a variety of reasons, everything from the weather to internal conflicts to extremism. And it’s a very complex map and portrait right now. But I think there is a real risk that if we don’t get the crisis prevention right across that broad swath, it has a real potential to undermine peace and security as well as a lot of the economic dynamism that we hope to see over the next generation.

MS. BENTON: Good. And Jennifer, from your perspective, how does this work for CSIS, and how do you see this playing out?

MS. COOKE: Well, I think the security threats are very real – the counter – the narcotics trafficking, violent extremism, internal conflicts that are devastating in terms of their human impact. In a globalized world, all of these things matter – what happens in Africa matters much more to the United States than perhaps 20 years ago, what have you.

MS. BENTON: Exactly.

MS. COOKE: So there is the threat aspect of this.

I think the economic opportunity is, I think, the other interest to the United States. I’m kind of losing track of the question.

MS. BENTON: Oh, that’s okay. (Laughter.) We were trying to figure out what areas do you see opportunity for potential collaboration with the U.S. Government and Africans.

MS. COOKE: Yeah. Well, so we do a lot of collaborating already in the security realm, working with African partners on that. I think that’s extremely important that the U.S. not just go in and do things according to its agenda, but it be working with African partners on that.

I think we do have to work with African Governments to help encourage investment, to ensure that that investment is being used to generate employment, to generate development to kind of – so that it’s not concentrated – wealth is not concentrated in the hands of the few --

MS. BENTON: In that hands of a few, right.

MS. COOKE: And I think more and more in a globalized world, we need to partner with African Government on the big global issues of the day, whether it’s nuclear proliferation, climate change, the trade regime, even the big norms – democracy, human rights, responsibility to protect. As multilateral institutions become more important, the U.S. needs partners and alliances in those realms as well.

MR. NORRIS: It’s also an era when it’s not just a question of what is Africa’s impact on us, what is our impact on Africa? We’re now in a society at a time when Europe’s economic slowdown has real implications for economic growth in Africa. What are we doing with our own trade preferences? What are we doing in our own farm bill? These have shockwaves that radiate out towards Africa. So I think we’ve entered an age when we are genuinely interdependent in a lot of ways that people don’t necessarily appreciate.

MS. BENTON: Oh, I appreciate it, myself. And that leads to our next question: How can the U.S. promote and assist the participation of American small and medium size enterprises in partnerships with African entrepreneurs and businesses? And I think that has a lot of relevance, because we look at what China is doing over there, and I realize it’s a race to the top and we’ve got to be in that mix. So I was wondering how that plays out.

AMBASSADOR CARSON: Let me say that the Administration continues to focus on the importance of AGOA, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which allows for some 5,000-plus products to come into the United States duty-free from Africa. AGOA has been in existence for 12 years, and we believe that under AGOA, based on what we’ve seen, a large number of African entrepreneurs, a large number of African countries, have taken increasing benefit from the ability to access our market.

Many of these companies that are doing so are small companies that become medium size companies and we hope will become larger companies. These companies are sending in textiles, clothing; they’re sending in shoes and leather-manufactured objects; they’re sending in some machine parts and tools; and countries like South Africa are taking large advantage in sending in even some types of commercial vehicles into the U.S. marketplace. But most African businesses are in the small to medium size category.

But to assist and to make this more relevant to Africa’s small and medium size businesses, we have done a number of things in the last three years under this Administration to engage and involve both Africans and Americans at the small, medium, and large sector. One of the things we’ve done is to create a program that we call AWEP, African Women’s Entrepreneurial Program, where we have, in association with AGOA, sought to work with groups of African women entrepreneurs to help them to improve the quality of their products so that they reach our standards, to improve their marketing so that they can advertise their products in the U.S., and their access by helping them to get to the buyers in the United States who are going to buy.

And this is bringing them to marketing shows in the United States, helping them to access large commercial dealers here, whether it is working with Diane Von Furstenberg on the fashion side or working with Walmart on the large retail side. We’ve been able to help them do that. It’s become very much a part of our programming. So AWEP is very good. We’ve had 30 to 40 women participating in events over the last three years, and the Secretary has pushed this very hard.

The other thing that --

MS. NORRIS: And I would say that is the first time I’ve heard Diane Von Furstenberg and Walmart in the same sentence. I’m very impressed. (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR CARSON: I hope that Walmart accepts some of her fashions.

MS. BENTON: That’s right, that’s right. That’s great.

AMBASSADOR CARSON: But the other thing that we’ve done, I think which has been critically important, and it shows again this mutuality that this is good for the United States and it’s good for Africa. 2010 was the anniversary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and as a part of that we instituted something very new that is we hope will continue to go forward in future years. Instead of just having a meeting between U.S. Government officials in Commerce, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, Export-Import Bank, OPIC, and the Department of State, we decided to cut the Washington component of the AGOA conference down to half of what it was.

So instead of spending a week in Washington with government officials talking to government officials, we decided to take the program to the field. And so in 2010, we did two and a half days in Washington and then two and a half days in Kansas, and we invited ministers as well as a group of African businessmen and women, plus the AWEP participants, to join us in Kansas to look at every aspect of American agriculture to help network, to help build relationships, to pass off knowledge, and to expose Africans to the full range of our agriculture and to expose American companies such as Cargill and Monsanto and Pioneer and others to what exists as opportunities in the agricultural field there.

And so it was about seeds. It was about fertilizers. It was about storage facilities. It was about improved non-rain-fed watering systems. It was about the equipment and how you improve your crops. But it brought African businessmen and women and government officials into contact with what America is all about – that farming sector and industry.

In 2012, again in the United States, coming back we did the same thing, two and a half days in Washington, and then we took, this summer, African officials out to Cincinnati to let them take a look at our energy sector, our sanitation sector, and our infrastructure sector, exposing them to the work of Duke Energy and major players like that, GE and others who are doing work across the board. But people saw how we – our energy sector works, is powered, how reliable it is, plus our water and sanitation systems. We have the best, cleanest water system in the world here, and it’s no reason why we can’t sell that technology to Africa, which would benefit from it by having cleaner water, healthier communities, and stronger societies.

And so it was mutually – we will continue to do that. These are ways to do it. Again, we are working also with SBA to involve them so that they can help show government officials how we support small business and give them ideas, and we expose them to African businesspeople so that they can encourage their governments to do things like this as well.

MS. BENTON: Yeah, that’s pretty neat. Go ahead.

MS. COOKE: Yeah. I mean, I think the big thing is exposure. The perceptions of risks in Africa that the businesses here have are often much higher than the actual risk, and so that kind of exposure, exposing people to the kind of opportunities and gaps that might exist, is very important. I think a lot of the bigger businesses – China’s engagement in Africa, for all that it can be a little controversial, has piqued the interest of a lot of big businesses here, saying wait a second, they’re doing well, there are opportunities for us here. So that kind of exposure to opportunities to the diversity of Africa as well is important.

In terms of empowering African small and medium enterprises, again, does the growth that we’re seeing kind of bring up all boats in that? And I think it’s important that these small businesses have access to credit, access to financial services, that small farmers get access to kind of improved seeds, improved technologies. So you move from a hand hoe to an ox or to a tractor. And are the government policies within those countries encouraging small and medium enterprises in that way?

In this regard, there’s new technologies that are transforming the African landscape in that way. And mobile telephony allows the small farmer to check market prices and see if it’s worth making the trip to the capital. You can transfer money. There’s mobile banking now. All of these things, I think, if expanded and invested in, can help bring up the very small and medium enterprises within Africa so that the wealth is not concentrated –

MS. BENTON: In just a few. Right. And just changing that whole paradigm of how you approach AGOA, I’m sure, has made a world of difference to those companies in Africa as well as what we are able to offer them from America.

We’ve received questions on today’s topic. We’ve gotten one, Frederic from
Twitter: How does the U.S. plan to engage Africa differently than India, China, EU, and France? And I’ll let anyone take that. (Laughter.) Anyone?

MR. NORRIS: I think this goes to a follow-up to what Jennifer was saying in understanding the right atmosphere and environment for American trade compared to China. China’s model in Africa right now and a lot of places in the developing world is a mercantile model. It’s kind of America 1880s. They’re interested in the natural resources. They’re interested in securing a relationship with the government in power, pretty much regardless of the composition or characteristics of that government. And it is driven by their need for natural resources to feed their economic boom at home, which is slowing down to a certain state.

The enabling environment for American companies, European companies, is one built on good governance, transparency, regularity, the rule of law – very different characteristics. And so I think the things that the Ambassador and Jennifer have talked about in terms of getting exposure for medium and small businesses is really important, but the big picture will continue to be getting the policy environment right. Private capital in the United States and Europe is very nimble, it’s very smart; it will go places where it figures out that there is an acceptable level of risk and a good playing field for them. And if we can get some of those big-picture things about governance and transparency and cross-border trade right, American capital will flow, and I think a lot of small and medium size entrepreneurs in Africa will do very well as a result.

MS. BENTON: Very good.

MS. COOKE: Just on that, on the trade and investment side, I mean, I think even the U.S. private sector is much more constrained than, say, the Chinese, by anti-corruption laws, and so it has to operate in a transparent way. The brand, the reputation of the U.S. private sector, U.S. companies tend to do a lot more training, knowledge transfer, technology transfer, than some other countries. And I think so there’s an advantage that, if countries recognize, to kind of greater U.S. engagement on that front.

One thing that I think really differentiates the U.S. from China in particular in India is that our engagement goes much beyond the government of the day and it’s much beyond commercial. We do a lot more with civil society, with community groups. I think we have a much better ear for public opinion and kind of trends within the country. China obviously has a kind of noninterference policy. That’s not its domain. That’s not what it’s going to deal with. I think it’s an advantage for the United States in some ways, because Africa is changing. There are more voices in the political marketplace. You have to listen to civil society. You have to listen to opposition groups. And I think that’s – the U.S. has a much broader gauge and engagement than I think that –

MS. BENTON: Absolutely.

MS. COOKE: -- one might find in India.

MS. BENTON: Absolutely.

AMBASSADOR CARSON: I think it’s important to remember that our engagement with Africa is driven by fundamental principles, values, and historical interests and relationships. And that as we engage Africa, we should engage Africa based on our values and principles which are fundamental to our own interests here at home. And that as we engage Africa, we should not be engaging Africa because someone else is or because they are seen to be competing with us. We should be engaging with Africa because we believe there is an intrinsic value and importance in doing so; that we recognize that historically we have a large African American population whose origin is African; that we have economic interests that tie us together.

We have Nigeria, for example, which is the fifth largest supplier of crude oil to the United States, the largest supplier of low-sulfur and crude oil, and supplies as much fuel to us on a daily basis as Saudi Arabia. We have to remember that American corporations are dominant players in the oil industry not only in Nigeria but in Angola and Algeria and in new explorations in Liberia. And we also have to remember that it is our fundamental democratic values and principles, our respect for constitutional civilian democratic governance that protects the rights of citizens as well as the rights of corporations. It’s our judicial system, it’s our values and principles that should be leading our way. And that is what keeps us engaged in Africa. It’s not the apprehension of competition with Great Britain or France or Germany or with the new entrants China and Turkey and Brazil and India. We have interests that have been longstanding that we need to continue to encourage. Those players may be ephemeral; they may come and they may go.

But our interests should remain permanent, our engagement should be based on those interests, and I think, Jennifer, you’re absolutely right; when it comes to China versus Africa, there is no question in my mind that African countries ought to look very carefully at the enormous differences that exist between engaging with an American company and engaging with a Chinese company. And we do have differences that are stark and that are quite real. We have transparency, we have a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act that ensures that transparency. And when you deal with us, as you said, there’s technology transfer, there’s training, there’s participation in a global market, there’s respect for local laws. We hire locally. We don’t bring in thousands of workers. We respect environmental codes and we respect local law.

And when we run afoul of both a contract with laborers and a contract with corporations, it can be adjudicated not only in the host country, but in our country as well, as we’ve seen. People don’t talk very frequently about the Chinese justice system. They don’t talk about Chinese transparency. They don’t talk about Chinese hiring lots of local labor. They don’t talk about Chinese following environmental standards. And we don’t see Africans going off to Beijing for further training and then being dispatched to Germany, France, or another African company to represent a Citibank or to represent a Chevron or to represent Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola or Boeing or any of the others.

We have a difference. And the other thing we have to do as a part of this is to say to African countries that they have a responsibility in dealing not only with China, but with India and Brazil and Turkey and other countries --

MS. BENTON: And us.

AMBASSADOR CARSON: And us. And to live up to the same set of standards.

MS. BENTON: That’s right.

AMBASSADOR CARSON: Let’s not have a different standard for one major company or power and a different standard for another. If you’ve got an unemployment problem as well as an infrastructure problem, don’t bring in 10- or 20,000 workers to produce a bridge or a road that falls apart in two or three --

MR. NORRIS: Or a soccer stadium.

MS. BENTON: Yes. (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR CARSON: That falls apart in two --

MR. NORRIS: A soccer stadium.

AMBASSADOR CARSON: -- or three years and then not employ anyone in the process. There is a real difference and I think we need to – but fundamentally, we engage with Africa because we have real tangible interest that – historical, longstanding, and are based on both social, economic, and political reasons.

MS. BENTON: Yeah, that’s very good.

AMBASSADOR CARSON: We’re there for a reason that goes beyond competition.

MS. BENTON: That’s very true. So what steps can we take – and this is another question that came in on Twitter – to help end violence, especially gender-based violence, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo? And I just will add the Secretary has visited there, she’s very strong on holding these leaders accountable, particularly around the gender-based violence. I mean, that’s such – it’s very important to me too. It’s close to my heart and soul.

AMBASSADOR CARSON: Let me just say – and I lived – there – we are committed to fighting gender-based violence, and we’re particularly committed to trying to fight it in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it is become a huge scourge in the east. And we have a number of programs that we’re engaged in. One is that we are constantly encouraging the government to arrest and prosecute and punish those individuals who are involved. We are helping, through a number of programs, to train more magistrates, to be able to try cases of gender-based violence. We are encouraging the government, through training programs, to give their police officers and their military officers the recognition and awareness that they need to have to respect the rights of women, and to not carry out deprivations and attacks against women themselves, and to put this as a part of their key training.

We’re also trying to have more women in the police force, more women magistrates, and more women who are trained to deal with these issues in the military. And it is a combination of trying to, on the one hand, encourage prosecution and punishment; on the other, building up institutional awareness among those who should have it, and to train and to insert into key places women who can represent the issues of women and raise awareness in training. All of these things are things that we’re committed to doing.

But let me say it is an enormous problem. It is an enormous problem. And I would be the first to admit that we have not been able to get our hands around it. There is still far too much sexual and gender-based violence occurring throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but particularly in the east. And we need to make our voices constantly heard at a loud level on this, and we need to encourage others in the international community to have their voices heard as well.

MS. BENTON: Yeah. We’re running up on time, but I did want to get your comment on that as well as yours.

MR. NORRIS: Yeah. Just very quickly, the violence against women in the Eastern Congo is – they’re symptoms of a much larger problem, and I think two problems primarily. One, the Congo hasn’t gotten to the point where it can effectively defend its sovereignty, that we continue to have the problem of the Lord’s Resistance Army moving around fluidly, we continue to have problems with Rwandan and Rwandan influences moving in and out of the east pretty easily. I think the U.S. Government should be congratulated for moving against Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army, and I think they’re toughening up its position a little bit with Rwanda and making clear that continued incursions will carry some diplomatic costs.

And the other problem is the even broader one that Congo struggles with in terms of the rule of law and security sector reform, and we’re not going to fix violence against women as long as police and army officials are part of that problem. And those are enormous, long-term endeavors and that’s not something the United States can do by itself. It needs its partners in the European Union and elsewhere in Africa to help with, but that is a long, slow slog.

MS. BENTON: Sure. Jennifer.

MS. COOKE: Well, John took the words out of my mouth. I mean, this – it’s the most horrific symptom of what’s fundamentally a governance problem in Kinshasa, and accountable and competent security forces that can protect women and that don’t engage themselves in the predations – the rule of law, accountability, ending impunity – so we can – it’s going to be very hard to get our arms around it in a comprehensive way if you don’t have the political will within the government to – both on this particular issue, but on the broader in security and the vacuum of governance in Eastern Congo. And that’s a tricky --

MS. BENTON: One of the things that I noted that the Ambassador has taught me is that in addition to what we do internationally and in America, the future of Africa is up to Africans. And so if that is the basis, maybe we can move this agenda forward.

But this is my least favorite part of the show. It’s time to close. (Laughter.) And this is – I wanted to thank you, Ambassador Carson, and I’d like to know if you could please share your final thoughts with us, and then we’ll close this out.

AMBASSADOR CARSON: I remain very optimistic about Africa’s future. I think that democratic progress continues to be made. I think Africa is realizing that it has an enormous economic and commercial future and is making progress there. We will continue to work, as President Obama has said, with Africa on the basis of deep mutual respect and mutual responsibility.

MS. BENTON: Right, good. Jennifer, could you share your final thoughts with us?

MS. COOKE: Yeah. I mean, I think you summed it up well that we can influence and we can help and we can support African governments and we can help support constituencies for reform and for pushing better governance, better economic opportunity. We have to be realistic about the limits of U.S. influence. Ultimately, this will reside in the hands of African governments and African citizens, and we want to make sure that their voice and – that they’re empowered and that their voice is heard.

MS. BENTON: Very good. John.

MR. NORRIS: Yeah. I would just say I think it’s a fantastically exciting time and that we’re starting to treat Africa the way that we’ve treated every other region in the world, that it’s not a problem in Asia, that you can have a Singapore and an Afghanistan together. It doesn’t mean that all of Asia is a wild success or a wild failure. We’re getting away from looking at Africa as a single entity, that we are understanding that there are great economic and political reformers and dynamos that we can work with, and other places that are problems and issues that we need to mitigate and resolve. And I think that sense of nuance and that sense of the maturation of the relationship is a really vital step forward.

MS. BENTON: Dynamo versus dinosaur. (Laughter.) Okay. I’d like to thank Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Jennifer Cooke, and John Norris for sharing their work and knowledge with us.

I’d also like to thank each of you for joining us today. We hope that Conversations With America will continue to inform citizens about the Administration’s efforts to address the challenges of the 21st century. We look forward to engaging with you again soon. Thank you.



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