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
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION 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 alleviation.
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 economic development.
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 others.
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?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION 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?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION 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 dialogue.
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 more money.
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 training?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION 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 democracy.
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.
END 5:33 P.M. EDT