For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 28, 2001
Background Briefing by
A Senior Administration Official
on President's Meeting with African Leaders
the James S. Brady Briefing Room
5:25 P.M. EDT
OFFICIAL: Thank you. Good
afternoon. The President, as all of you know, met with
President Konare of Mali, President Wade of Senegal, and President
Kufuor of Ghana this afternoon. They covered a range of
issues, focusing on the promotion and consolidation of democracy, peace
and stability in the sub-region, and economic development and poverty
President Bush opened the meeting by
congratulating the leaders on their democratic record, and he stated
that his administration is committed to economic prosperity and to
fight the scourge of disease. And he also said that the
three leaders set an example for others to follow in terms of their
democratic record, as well as their commitment of their troops for
peace in the sub-region.
The three heads of state emphasized the
linkage between poverty and the need to alleviate poverty in order to
consolidate democracy. They spoke about Africa's
infrastructure development needs, talked about the lack of connecting
roads between their capitals, the need for better communication
infrastructure, the need for Internet connectivity in order to promote
President Bush, as well, recognized this
linkage and spoke of the fact that with democracy there's a rise in
expectations, and if those expectations aren't met on the economic
side, it could, in fact, lead to a backlash. So there was a
meeting of the minds between the Presidents on the linkage between
democracy promotion and economic development and poverty alleviation.
The three Presidents also emphasized the need
for private sector development and for an infusion of foreign direct
capital. President Wage, in particular, noted the fact that
African countries are extremely competitive, so that they are seeking
private capital and private development.
And finally, President Bush spoke about the
G-8 and the fact that he wants to discuss Africa trade, prosperity,
infrastructure and health at the G-8, and he intends to do
so. He sees the health pandemic as a terrible moment in
history, and said that they all need to work together on a strategy of
education, prevention and treatment, and to lead rather than to lecture
And so he ended the meeting by discussing the
fact that he's looking forward in his upcoming trip to the G-8 to
raising the issues of poverty, and the broader issues of peace and
stability and the interconnection of them. That is the
discussion essentially that he had with the Presidents of Senegal, of
Ghana and of Mali.
Q Outside, Ghana's
President mentioned something about aid for the flood-ravaged capital,
Accra, but he was non-specific about it. Was there any
specific amount of money or anything talked about in terms of direct
assistance from these United States to these poor folks who are
suffering flood damage in that country?
OFFICIAL: Yes. President Bush was aware of the
problem and, in fact, suggested that they contact our embassy in Ghana,
and we would be prepared to help them through our ambassador on the
ground. And so we are prepared to be of assistance to the
Ghanians. It's a matter of them making a formal request to
us through those channels.
Q And so the U.S. will
make an assessment on the ground of the needs? Is that what it is?
OFFICIAL: Yes. Their government has to make their
assessment and then come to our ambassador with the specific request,
and then we would be responsive to that request.
Q On the broad issue of
poverty alleviation and economic development, did the President discuss
any specific things that the United States could do, say, by increasing
aid or making available multilateral financing or encouraging private
investment by U.S. corporations through the Commerce Department that
would actually help on those two issues? Did they talk
money, or was it more a general statement of --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It
was not as general as just a general statement, but also not as
specific as amounts of money. What President Bush said and
did in this meeting is listen to the African leaders and how they
described the problems that they were facing, to have a better
understanding and to begin a dialogue, so that we're not just throwing
money at problems that we perceive, but rather to hear from them what
they perceive as their challenges. And so that was a beginning to the
In the course of the discussion, they
identified specific areas where the United States could be of
assistance. One was, President Bush asked them, in terms of
infrastructure development, how the World Bank was
doing. They mentioned that there needed to be more financing
for agriculture. There needed to be more financing for
infrastructure. And President Bush said that he would raise
the issue with President Wolfensohn of the World Bank.
In a second area that they specifically
identified was -- or President Bush raised was the relationship between
health and education. And he said that the United States saw
the $200 million on top of what is collectively about $1 billion in
global aid. And what he really wanted to do with that $200
million is encourage other countries to come forward. And
when they do so, then the United States would be prepared to kick in
There was one, third, more concrete
area. When I -- I'll think of it in the course of --
Q That debt
cancellation, that's part of the MAP program, is debt cancellation --
not just relief, cancellation for most African countries. President
Mbeki, when he was here, said that the President endorsed
that. I was very confused about that. Does that
mean that President Bush endorses debt cancellation for Africa?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In
the meeting with these three leaders, the issue of debt never came
up. Their focus, the three leaders focused very strongly on
the importance of private sector -- that was the third area, thank you
-- it was exactly on private sector and they're saying they're looking
for the United States to help them in attracting private capital.
And President Bush specifically said he could
talk to the American business sector, tell them he had met with these
three leaders, discussed their democratic record and their track record
on economic reform and encourage that investment. But, of
course, it was left to the companies, the private sector, to make
decisions about whether they would invest or not, but that he would
certainly raise these three countries as examples for a stable
environment where the rule of law is being fortified and perhaps a
place where the private sector would want to invest.
Q Did the subject of
Sierra Leone come up in the meeting?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It
did, it did come up. President Bush, as I said, noted their
commitment to providing their own troops to the crises in their
sub-region. He specifically said that he's interested in how
the United States could be of assistance in terms of providing
training, providing -- providing more training and -- let's see here,
well, essentially to providing training and asked them how did they
think that we could be most helpful.
He also asked the Presidents to give him an
assessment of what was happening in Sierra Leone, and they spoke about
the rebel incursions across borders. They spoke about the
fact that their troops were over-extended and that the United States is
currently training their troops. They welcomed that and said
that they would like a continuation of that training.
Q On this one, if I
may, I have a follow-up. I was of the impression that the
training of the West African troops was going to stop. So,
are you saying that the administration is actually open to continuing
OFFICIAL: President Bush specifically said that we need to
create the conditions to allow Africans to engage in peacekeeping and
that we would be prepared to train them. They didn't talk
about specific programs, whether that's Operation Focus Relief -- which
indeed is scheduled to end at the end of the year, I believe -- or with
the final battalions that are trained. Nor did they speak
specifically about the Africa Crisis Response
Initiative. They spoke about training troops in general.
Q Did they talk about
AGOA, the African Growth and Opportunities Act? Some of these
countries, I think, are in line to be approved and some are not. Did
they talk about that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I
believe it was President Konare welcomed the Africa Growth and
Opportunity Forum and President Bush's invitation to their ministers to
come to discuss it in greater depth. They talked about the
need for access, market access to the United States, and President Bush
confirmed -- or affirmed the fact that we are free
traders. He said to make no mistake about it, we're free
traders and we're committed to lowering the barriers.
Q When President Bush
said he was interested in helping with training and how the U.S. could
be more helpful, did any of the three African heads of state then say,
okay, well, this is how you could be more helpful?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As
I said, President Kufuor said, our troops are over-extended and we
welcome your training, and we need more. But, frankly, the
issue of peacekeeping was not addressed as extensively as the issue of
poverty, of economic development, the need for private
sector. That was where the three Presidents focused their
remarks. And particularly, in terms of the consolidation of
Q How long did the
meeting actually last?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The
meeting lasted about an hour. At least an hour, and perhaps
about an hour and 10 minutes. But about an hour.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
5:33 P.M. EDT