During the past few days, I have traveled to Zambia, Tanzania, and now Ethiopia, meeting with leaders and citizens who are rising to meet challenges of all kinds with creativity, courage, and skill. And I am pleased to come to the African Union today as the first United States Secretary of State to address you, because I believe that in the 21st century, solving our greatest challenges cannot be the work only of individuals or individual nations. These challenges require communities of nations and peoples working together in alliances, partnerships, and institutions like the African Union.
Consider what it takes to solve global challenges, like climate change or terrorism, or regional ones, like the African Union’s work in Sudan and Somalia. Your efforts to end the brutal campaign of the Lord’s Resistance Army, your push to create a green revolution for Africa that drives down hunger and poverty, the challenge of helping refugees displaced by conflict, the fight against transnational crimes like piracy and trafficking: These are diplomatic and development challenges of enormous complexity. But institutions like this make it easier for us to address them, by helping nations turn common interests into common actions, by encouraging coalition building and effective compromising, by integrating emerging nations into a global community with clear obligations and expectations.
That is why, as Secretary of State, I have emphasized the work of regional institutions throughout the world, in Latin America, in Asia, in Europe, and in Africa. Now, regional institutions, of course, may differ, but increasingly they are called upon to be problem solvers and to deliver concrete results that produce positive change in people’s lives.
To solve the problems confronting Africa and the world, we need the African Union. We also need Africa’s sub-regional institutions, all of whom must help lead the way. Because the results you will achieve will shape the future, first and foremost, of course, for the people of Africa, but also for the people of my country, and indeed for people everywhere because what happens in Africa has global impact. Economic growth here spurs economic growth elsewhere. Breakthroughs in health research here can save and improve lives in other lands. And peace established here makes the world more secure.
So the United States seeks new and dynamic partnerships with African peoples, nations, and institutions. We want to help you accelerate the advances that are underway in many places and collaborate with you to reverse the dangerous trends and encourage political, economic, and social progress.
Today, I’d like briefly to discuss three areas, which are areas of emphasis for you and for us and where I think we can make particular progress through regional institutions like the AU. They are democracy, economic growth, and peace and security. These are, of course, the core areas of focus for the African Union, and that’s for a reason. All three are critical for a thriving region. All three must be the work both of individual nations and communities of nations. And all three present challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities we must address together.
First, democracy. Let me begin by saying this is an exciting time for African democracy. More than half the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have embraced democratic, constitutional, multi-party rule. Now, some, like Botswana, Ghana, and Tanzania, have spent decades building strong institutions and a tradition of peaceful, democratic transitions. (Interruption to audio.) When things like this happen, you just keep going. (Laughter.) (Applause.) Now, those countries that I mentioned are models, not only for their neighbors, but increasingly for countries everywhere.
Other African nations have been also making important advances. In Nigeria, President Jonathan was inaugurated 15 days ago after what many have called the fairest election in Nigeria’s recent history. Benin and Malawi both held successful elections this spring, building on previous successful multiparty contests. Kenya’s democracy got a boost from last year’s referendum on its new constitution. The vote took place without violence, and the constitution, which includes a bill of rights and limits on executive power, passed by a large margin. Niger and Guinea, both of which endured recent military coups, held successful elections in the past year. And in Cote d'Ivoire, the crisis that followed the 2010 elections was finally resolved two months ago with the help of the AU, and the elected winner is now serving as president.
These are just a few examples of Africa’s recent democratic gains. A complete list would fill all the time we have today. In several nations, the institutions of democracy are becoming stronger. There are freer medias, justice systems that administer justice equally, and impartially, honest legislatures, vibrant civil societies.
Now, much of the credit for these hard-won achievements rightly belongs to the people and leaders of these countries who have passionately and persistently, sometimes at great risk to themselves, demanded that their leaders protect the rule of law, honor election results, uphold rights and freedoms. But credit is also due to the African Union, which has prohibited new leaders who have come to power through military rule and coups from being seated in the organization. The AU and Africa’s other regional institutions have also played a pivotal role in ending crises and creating the conditions for successful, democratic transitions, with the AU’s work to monitor elections being an especially important contribution.
But, even as we celebrate this progress, we do know that too many people in Africa still live under longstanding rulers, men who care too much about the longevity of their reign, and too little about the legacy that should be built for their country’s future. Some even claim to believe in democracy – democracy defined as one election, one time. (Laughter.) (Applause.)
Now, this approach to governing is being rejected by countries on this continent and beyond. Consider the changes that have recently swept through North Africa and the Middle East. After years of living under dictatorships, people have demanded new leadership; in places where their voices have long been silenced, they are exercising their right to speak, often at the top of their lungs. In places where jobs are scarce and a tiny elite prospers while most of the population struggles, people – especially young people – are channeling their frustration into social, economic, and political change.
Their message is clear to us all: The status quo is broken; the old ways of governing are no longer acceptable; it is time for leaders to lead with accountability, treat their people with dignity, respect their rights, and deliver economic opportunity. And if they will not, then it is time for them to go.
Every country in the world stands to learn from these democracy movements, but this wave of activism, which came to be known as the Arab Spring, has particular significance for leaders in Africa and elsewhere who hold on to power at all costs, who suppress dissent, who enrich themselves and their supporters at the expense of their own people. To those leaders our message must be clear: Rise to this historic occasion; show leadership by embracing a true path that honors your people’s aspirations; create a future that your young people will believe in, defend, and help build. Because, if you do not – if you believe that the freedoms and opportunities that we speak about as universal should not be shared by your own people, men and women equally, or if you do not desire to help your own people work and live with dignity, you are on the wrong side of history, and time will prove that.
The United States pledges its support for those African nations that are committed to doing the difficult but rewarding work of building a free, peaceful, and prosperous future. And we look to institutions like the African Union, that are dedicated to democracy and good governance, to continue to encourage countries to walk that path or risk isolating themselves further.
Now, of course, creating the conditions that allow people and communities to flourish in a democracy cannot simply be a matter of holding elections; they are a necessary but not sufficient condition. Good governance requires free, fair, and transparent elections, a free media, independent judiciaries, and the protection of minorities. And democracy must also deliver results for people by providing economic opportunity, jobs, and a rising standard of living.
Now, here, again, the map of Africa is lit up with success stories. Six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies in the last decade are in Sub-Saharan Africa, and that percentage is expected to grow in the next five years. At a time when investors everywhere are hunting for promising new markets and worthy new ventures, Africa is attracting attention from all corners.
But a prosperous future is not guaranteed. Several of Africa’s highest performing economies are dependent on a single industry or a single export, often a commodity, which we know can have both good and bad consequences. It can discourage the rise of new industries and the jobs that come with them, and it can concentrate a nation’s wealth among a privileged few. Meanwhile, even while growth rates skyrocket in some countries, in others they are rising too slowly and it can take too long for growth on paper to translate into jobs that are spread across a country. But it is this desire that is especially urgent among the youth of Africa that cannot be ignored.
When we saw the uprisings first in Tunisia and then in Egypt, they were about both political change and economic change. Too many young people said they had studied, they had worked hard. The tragic story of the young vegetable vendor who finally, in great frustration – because no matter how hard he tried, a corrupt regime would not give him the chance to have the sweat of his brow translated into economic benefits for himself and his family. More than 40 percent of the people living in Africa are under the age of 15. It rises to nearly two thirds if we look at under the age of 30. These young people are all coming of age at once and they are all connected. There are no more secrets because of social media, because that incredible technology can inform a young person in a rural area, where there are no roads, but there are cell phones, what is going on in his capital or in neighboring countries.
Creating jobs and opportunity for these young people is an enormous challenge, and one that I know the African Union is committed to addressing. Your summit later this month is focused on youth empowerment for sustainable development. You are right that young people must be brought into this work themselves, otherwise your hardest working, your best and your brightest, will either be frustrated and act out against the leaders of their country or they will leave to find opportunities in other lands. After all, the people who are speaking out most passionately across Africa are doing so with an eloquence and an advocacy that should, as the older generations, make us proud. These are young people who want to make something of themselves. All they need is the chance to do so.
Countries such as Zambia, Mali, Ghana, and Rwanda have had strong successes with their approaches to development. They have diversified their economies and created jobs across many sectors, which has helped to decrease poverty. They have continuously reinvested in the foundations of their economies, building roads and power plants and expanding access to financial services so more people can start or grow businesses. Based on lessons we’ve learned from our work around the world, the United States wants to deepen our partnerships with countries that take a broad-based, inclusive, sustainable approach to growth.
Now, I will be the first to admit that too much of our development work in the past provided only temporary aid and not the foundation for lasting change that helps people permanently improve their lives and communities. But the Obama Administration is taking a different approach. Our goal is to help countries’ economies grow over time so they can meet their own needs. Ultimately, we believe that the most effective development programs are the ones that put themselves out of business because they spark economic activity, they help create strong institutions, they nourish a private sector that, unleashed, will create more jobs.
And at the same time, we are asking our partners to do their part. How? Increased transparency, strengthen tax systems, fight corruption. Every bribe paid to a customs official or a government employee represents a hidden tax on the cost of doing business and a drag on economic growth. We are making this a priority in our diplomatic engagement, and we look to our partners to take concrete actions to stop corruption. One of the possible benefits of technology is doing what’s called electronic government, e-government, putting government services online so you don’t have to go through so many hands to get that permit to start a business. And we are encouraging and will work with countries interested in pursuing that kind of opportunity.
We’re also putting a new emphasis on trade. I spoke about this a few days ago at the AGOA Forum in Lusaka. During the past decade, Africa’s non-oil exports to the United States quadrupled, and we’ve only begun to tap the potential. We can and we will trade much more with each other. In fact, we are establishing, with a $120 million commitment over the next four years, trade hubs to help businesses write business plans; to learn how to market their products; to get the kind of technical advice that would not be affordable for a small or medium-sized business.
Trade should not only, however, increase across the ocean or the sea to Europe and the United States. Trade has to increase across this continent. There is less trade among the countries within Sub-Saharan Africa than within any other region in the world, and yet there are consumers and there are producers, but there are barriers – tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers, longstanding suspicions that have to be overcome in order to take advantage of the economic engine that Sub-Saharan Africa can be.
I commend those countries and institutions working to accelerate economic integration, such as the East African Community. And last year, the United States became the first country to nominate an ambassador to the EAC, and we are pursuing a partnership to help build a customs union and a common market. And we applaud the efforts that began with the meeting in South Africa, last week, to discuss a tripartite free trade agreement that will lower trade barriers across dozens of countries.
And the vision of an African common market is worth pursuing. This approach is reflected in our Millennium Challenge Compacts, which form partnerships with developing countries devoted to good governance, economic freedom, and investing in one’s citizens. You can see it in our Partnerships for Growth Program: We picked four countries in the world that we thought could put all the pieces together, and two of them are in Africa, Tanzania and Ghana. These nations have made strong commitments to democracy, to their own development progress, and we’re stepping up our economic relations with these top performers.
Another example of our new approach is our Feed the Future food security initiative. We’re investing $3.5 billion in 20 focus countries, including 12 in Africa, to revitalize agricultural sectors so you can increase food production and availability, raise your farmers’ incomes, decrease hunger and under-nutrition. And through the Feed the Future, we are supporting the AU’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program, which, we think, has laid the foundation for more effective agricultural policies across the continent. By investing in agriculture and strengthening nations’ food security, we will see economies grow and stability increase.
There’s another important element of sustainable economic development, and that is improvements in health. Right now, several African countries are making great strides in bringing life-saving health interventions to more of their people. Zambia has significantly reduced mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Nigeria has made great progress in fighting polio through renewed vaccination efforts. And Ethiopia has mobilized an army of 30,000 health workers to bring a basic package of care to remote regions. We are backing these kinds of improvements through our Global Health Initiative, which supports country-led programs and helps countries unite separate health programs into one sustainable health system.
So we are combining our efforts through PEPFAR, through AID, through CDC, and other U.S. Government approaches, because we think health is a critical element of a nation’s security. When epidemics are prevented from occurring or ended or controlled quickly, when people can get life-saving care when they need it and return to their jobs and their lives, families are stronger, communities are stronger, and nations are stronger.
And finally, when it comes to economic opportunity and development, we must empower the continent’s women. The women of Africa are the hardest working women in the world. And so often – (applause) – so often what they do is not included in the formal economy, it is not measured in the GDP. And yet, if all the women in Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town, decided they would stop working for a week, the economies of Africa would collapse. (Applause.)
So let’s include half the population. Let’s treat them with dignity. Let’s give them the right and responsibility to make a contribution to the 21st century of African growth and progress. And the United States will be your partner, because we have seen what a difference it makes when women are educated, when they have access to health care, when they can start businesses, when they can get credit, when they can help support their families. So let us make sure that that remains front and center in the work we do together.
And finally, let me address peace and security. In recent years, a quiet storyline has emerged out of the security challenges that have developed on the continent. More and more, the African Union and Africa’s sub-regional organizations and African states, working alone or in concert, are taking the lead in solving Africa’s crises. In Somalia, AMISOM, the African Union’s peacekeeping mission, thanks to heroic efforts by Ugandan and Burundian soldiers, has helped the Transitional Federal Government make remarkable security gains in Mogadishu over the past couple of months. Al-Shabaab, an affiliate of al-Qaida, is finally on the defensive, and we see that because they are increasingly resorting to suicide bombers and the targeting of civilians, a sign of desperation.
Now, we expect Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government to create political and economic progress to match AMISOM’s security progress. It cannot continue operating the way it has in the past. We look to the TFG to resolve their internal divisions and improve the lives of the millions of Somalis who continue to suffer, and we know that the AU will be their partner in doing so.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we remain concerned about the continued violence against women and girls and the activities of armed groups in the eastern region of the country. Every effort by the AU and UN will be necessary to help the DRC respond to these continuing security crises.
And then there is the situation in Sudan: South Sudan is less than one month away from becoming the world’s newest state. And the governments of Sudan and South Sudan have made laudable progress in implementing certain provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. But recent developments along the border, particularly in the Abyei region, are deeply troubling. The parties must resolve the remaining CPA issues peacefully through negotiations, not violence. And again, the African Union has played a critical role in facilitating negotiations in Sudan. And I also want to thank the prime minister of Ethiopia, our host country, for everything he has done and is doing as we speak today.
I will have the opportunity later this evening to meet with representatives from both the North and South to add my voice and that of President Obama and my government to the chorus of voices saying the same thing: Resolve your differences, settle the problem in Darfur. And we got some good news out of Doha today that we hope will translate into real progress. But come together and make it possible for both of these countries to have peaceful, prosperous futures.
And there is, of course, another country whose security matters to all of us, and that is Libya. Libya has been the subject of many of our discussions during the past few months. And I believe there is much on which we can agree. There is little question that the kind of activities that, unfortunately, have affected the Libyan people for more than 40 years run against the tide of history. And there is little question that despite having the highest nominal GDP in Africa, thanks to oil, Libya’s wealth was too concentrated within Qadhafi’s circle.
But of course, all the countries here are not in agreement about the steps that the international community, under the United Nations Security Council, have taken in Libya up to this point. Having looked at the information available, the Security Council, including the three African members, supported a UN mandate to protect civilians, prevent slaughter, and create conditions for a transition to a better future for the Libyan people themselves.
Now, I know there are some who still believe that the actions of the UN and NATO were not called for. And I know it’s true that over many years Mr. Qadhafi played a major role in providing financial support for many African nations and institutions, including the African Union. But it has become clearer by the day that he has lost his legitimacy to rule, and we are long past time when he can or should remain in power.
So I hope and believe that while we may disagree about some of what has brought us to this place, we can reach agreement about what must happen now. For as long as Mr. Qadhafi remains in Libya, the people of Libya will be in danger, refugee flows by the thousands will continue out of Libya, regional instability will likely increase, and Libya’s neighbors will bear more and more of the consequences. None of this is acceptable, and Qadhafi must leave power.
I urge all African states to call for a genuine ceasefire and to call for Qadhafi to step aside. I also urge you to suspend the operations of Qadhafi’s embassies in your countries, to expel pro-Qadhafi diplomats, and to increase contact and support for the Transitional National Council. Your words and your actions could make the difference in bringing this situation to finally close and allowing the people of Libya, on an inclusive basis, in a unified Libya, to get to work writing a constitution and rebuilding their country. The world needs the African Union to lead. The African Union can help guide Libya through the transition you described in your organization’s own statements, a transition to a new government based on democracy, economic opportunity, and security.
As we look to the future, we want to work with the African Union not only to react to conflicts and crises but to get ahead of them, to work together on a positive agenda that will stop crises before they start. And I think we can find many areas for collaboration.
On youth engagement, which is a priority for both the AU and President Obama, we seek to pursue a specific work plan with you. On democracy and good governance we already work together to monitor elections across Africa. Now we need to do more to help countries strengthen democratic institutions. On economic growth and trade the AU plays a major role in building Africa’s sub-regional architecture, and we stand ready to support you.
So I want to commend Africa’s institutions for what you have already accomplished, and in some cases, just a few years after your creation. And I will pledge my country’s support as you continue this work. Whether you seek to deepen the integration among your members, improve coordination, or reform your operations, we will be with you.
A good example that the chairman mentioned is what we can offer in the work we are doing to help reform the UN’s support for the African Union here in Addis Ababa. The UN and the African Union asked the United States to identify ways their work together could become more effective and strategic. We said yes, and now there are people at the State Department focused on this issue working closely with many of you in this room.
And as has already been announced, we are rejoining the UN Economic Commission for Africa, another sign of our commitment to engaging with Africa’s regional institutions. (Applause.)
On this trip to Africa, I am reminded every hour that for every challenge now facing Africa, a solution can be found somewhere in Africa. (Applause.) You do not have to look far afield to see political, economic, and social success.
Earlier I mentioned the Arab Spring, a name that suggests the blossoming of something new. And what is now blooming across the Arab states has already taken root in many African nations, commitment to democracy, recognition of human rights, investment in economic health and education programs, and an emphasis on meeting the needs of our young people.
Across this continent the work is underway, but there is a long season ahead. So I urge you not to be impatient; do not grow weary while doing good. Keep showing leadership. Keep building a path to a future worthy of the talents and aspirations of the young men and women of Africa. The United States believes deeply in these values. We believe passionately in the promise and potential of pluralistic democracies, of free markets. We welcome to our shores immigrants from every country represented here, and we can see the success stories that so many of them have built in the United States. But I have never met an immigrant from Africa who has not said he or she wished they could have done the very same in their own country, among their own people, close to their family, eating the food, smelling the flowers, seeing the sights that are in their blood. I want to see that for Africa, where people are coming home to Africa because this is where opportunity for the future resides.
Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)