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Obama, African leaders to talk security, economics

06 August 2014, 16:20

Washington - President Barack Obama and dozens of African leaders will hold talks Wednesday on two key issues that threaten to disrupt economic progress on the continent: security and government corruption.

The discussions will cap an unprecedented three-day gathering of African leaders in Washington. Much of the conference has centered on boosting U.S. financial ties with Africa, a continent that is home to six of the world's 10 fastest growing economies and a rapidly expanding middle class.

Yet White House officials acknowledge that security issues and governance challenges continue to constrain the continent's overall prosperity. There are particular concerns about Boko Haram, a ruthlessly violent Islamist group in Nigeria that was responsible for the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls earlier this year.

Officials said Wednesday's security discussions would center on ways to enable African governments to boost their own peacekeeping and counterterrorism capabilities while moving away from the need for costly outside intervention.

Leaders are also expected to discuss good governance and transparency, with U.S. officials arguing to their African counterparts that both are necessary conditions for economic growth.

Obama has sought to cast the continent as an untapped resource for U.S. businesses.

"Even as Africa continues to face enormous challenges, even as too many Africans still endure poverty and conflict, hunger and disease, even as we work together to meet those challenges, we cannot lose sight of the new Africa that's emerging," Obama said Tuesday as he announced $33 billion in U.S. commitments aimed at boosting financial ties with the continent. More than half of the commitments came from the private sector, including Coca-Cola Company and General Electric.

Obama will close the summit with a late-afternoon news conference. First lady Michelle Obama is also hosting a spouses' event with former first lady Laura Bush.

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- AP


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