“They exemplify the progress that we’re seeing in Africa,” Obama said of four leaders he hosted at the White House today. “All of them have had to deal with some extraordinary challenges.”
Presidents Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, Macky Sall of Senegal, Joyce Banda of Malawi, and Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde Islands, off the West African coast, met with Obama. The leaders discussed ways to strengthen democratic institutions in sub-Saharan Africa, and how to expand trade and investment.
Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Obama said Sierra Leone has had consecutive “free and fair” elections after civil war a decade ago, Malawi has overcome a constitutional crisis, Senegal has preserved democracy “after some bumps” in the road from the previous president, and Cape Verde has boosted per-capita income from about $200 a year to about $4,000 a year, “a real success story.”
“When you’ve got good governance, when you’ve got democracies that work,” Obama said, “that is not only good for the state and the functioning of government, it’s also good for economic development.”
Yesterday, the African leaders met with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for talks on countering terrorism, combating transnational threats and improving maritime security. Recent U.S. efforts to those ends have been focused on North Africa, defeating militant extremists linked to al-Qaeda.
Since taking office in 2009, Obama has met with more than a dozen African leaders at the White House or the United Nations in New York.
Such meetings have served to “reward those countries that have made advances in the cause of democracy and human rights,” Mwangi S. Kimenyi, senior fellow and director of the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said in a blog post.
In some cases, Kimenyi said, they represent countries that have made “progress in democratization or cessation of civil conflict.” In other instances, “an African country’s strategic importance to the U.S. in terms of security appears to be the most important factor for inclusion on the White House invitation list.”
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