Obama Plans US-Africa Summit In Washington, D.C.

Obama Plans US-Africa Summit In Washington, D.C.

President Barack Obama will invite leaders of 47 African countries in good standing with the U.S. to a U.S.-Africa summit Aug. 5 and 6, where he hopes to advance U.S. trade, investment and security ties with Africa.

Countries suspended from the African Union or not in the U.S.’s good graces won’t be invited, including Egypt, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Madagascar and Guinea Bissau, according to an AFP report by Stephen Collinson.

Building on Obama’s progress from his trip to Africa in 2013, the White House said in a statement the summit would “advance the administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa, and highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people.”

Obama first announced his idea for a U.S.-Africa summit during a speech in Cape Town in June as part of his three-country Africa tour.

Washington is increasingly aware of China’s efforts to enhance its diplomatic profile in Africa, AFP reports.

Egypt is not eligible to attend because it is suspended from the African Union.
The U.S. has sanctions against Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe government over suppression of democracy and what Washington sees as politically motivated violence.

Also absent from a list of invited countries is Sudan, Madagascar and Guinea-Bissau, according to the report. Washington is concerned over the subversion of democracy in Madagascar and Guinea-Bissau. Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

But Kenya is invited. Its President Uhuru Kenyatta is awaiting a delayed trial by the ICC on charges related to violence after a 2007 election that left 1,000 people dead. The indictment has been cited as one of the reasons Obama, as president, hasn’t visited the native country of his late father.

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Obama has spoken to Kenyatta on the phone, AFP reports, and the Kenyan leader has had more interaction with the outside world since the massacre at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in September by Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab insurgents.

The summit, together with Obama’s trip to Africa in 2013, and another visit promised before he leaves office, might go some distance to overcome disappointment that he did not pay the continent more attention in his first term.

The president visited Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania in 2013, promising agricultural, energy and development initiatives.

He had a short visit to Ghana in 2009 — his only visit to sub-Saharan Africa in his first term.

Obama promised during his 2013 trip to Africa to help build “Africa for Africans” and argued that the region’s growing economic potential could help it shake off its reputation as simply a recipient of foreign aid.

Despite talk of the U.S. competing with China for a power grab in Africa, and China pouring billions of dollars of trade and investment into the continent, Obama cautioned against the idea that a new proxy Cold War could play out in Africa, AFP reports.

“This is not a zero-sum game. This is not the Cold War. You’ve got one global market, and if countries that are now entering into middle-income status see Africa as a big opportunity for them, that can potentially help Africa,” Obama told reporters.

Obama also said that countries that saw Africa simply as a source of raw materials would not serve Africans well.

The Obama administration has increased involvement in regional conflicts in Africa. The U.S. military last week started transporting the first elements of a Rwandan battalion to the Central African Republic, where they will join an African Union mission.

International forces are trying to restore order after the country plunged into sectarian warfare following a March coup in which the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel group overthrew president Francois Bozize.

U.S. forces in December rescued Americans fleeing violence in South Sudan. Washington helped mediate the country’s independence from Sudan.

In 2011, Obama sent military trainers to Uganda to help hunt down the Lord’s Resistance Army and its leader, Joseph Kony.

Washington is also increasingly concerned about Al-Qaeda on the continent. In October, U.S. Navy SEALs raided a hideout of an al-Shabaab leader on the Somali coast but withdrew after a firefight, AFP reports.