On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I commend the Government of Benin for hosting this international symposium honoring the 50th anniversary of independence for 17 Francophone African countries. On this historic occasion, African leaders from government, business, and civil society have a unique opportunity to discuss the challenges of the last 50 years and share ideas about the way forward. Regional support and cooperation among all sectors of society are essential to address the challenges many African countries continue to face. Dedicated citizens and leaders working together in venues like this can help Africans make progress toward the goals we all share, from sustainable economic development, to good governance and transparency, to lasting peace and security. The United States has always been and will remain a supportive friend and partner to all those committed to tackling these challenges. I wish all participants at the International Symposium a productive meeting and a happy golden anniversary of independence.