Secretary Clinton Touts Development and Diplomacy in Africa
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finished an 11-day trip to Africa this past weekend signaling her strong commitment to personalized diplomacy and interest in Africa. As her longest trip yet as Secretary of State, it is an indication that the Obama Administration is prioritizing engagement with the African continent. She made a point of meeting with a wide range of stakeholders including heads of state, diplomats as well as business and civil-society leaders.
Over the course of her visits to seven African nations (Kenya, South Africa, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Nigeria and Cape Verde), she emphasized several themes including:
- The need for good governance– both as a precursor for trade and investment and a human rights expectation;
- The important role for public-private partnerships an innovative solutions;
- The need to invest in development (focused on agriculture and health);
- The increased role of trade and technology in advancing Africa; and
- Her commitment to advocating for women.
While no major initiative was announced, the Secretary’s trip laid the groundwork for more significant engagement in Africa. The length and breadth of her trip are an example of the importance of development and diplomacy in assisting countries come out of poverty and in increasing markets for more trade and economic growth.
In Kenya, Sec. Clinton pushed for government accountability – referencing last year’s violent elections and warning that investors would shun nations with corrupt leadership and economies. She also met up with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and they spoke jointly about the plans they have to combat food security. During the visit, Vilsack remarked, “We must help Africa produce enough food to feed its people and create economic opportunities for this continent.”
While in South Africa, she discussed the significant need for new strategies and resources and the department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), saying “we have made a commitment to having diplomacy and development be in equal standing with defense.” She also pressed the government to help diffuse the political crisis with its neighbor, Zimbabwe, and she applauded efforts to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The most emotional moment came during her visit with rape victims in Goma in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where sexual assault has been used as a weapon of war. Clinton committed $17 million to provide medical care and humanitarian assistance to an estimated 10,000 women in that region.
Secretary Clinton’s visit to Angola reinforced the importance of U.S. ties to this oil-producing nation and was an opportunity to encourage free and fair elections. This was similar to her message in Nigeria where she pledged help in dealing with violence in the Niger Delta while also pushing the government to stop corruption and improve their electoral process.
In Liberia, Clinton praised the work of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state, for her work in bringing Liberia from civil war to a burgeoning democracy. She ended her trip in Cape Verde where she congratulated them as a model of a successful Millennium Challenge Corporation partner.