Washington Hosts African Leaders To Talk Trade, But Missing From Agenda Is Human Rights

As African leaders gather in Washington, DC this week, The Washington Examiner offers reasons why the summit is consequential.

One reason pertains to security and the emergence of African nations as a home base for terrorist organizations.

“East, North and West Africa have become new frontiers for Islamist terrorism, and the summit will provide a forum to strengthen partnerships to help these nations fight terrorist groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al Shabaab in East Africa. This week, the U.S. is expected to announce nearly $60 million in peacekeeping training in six African countries,” notes the paper.

The weeklong gathering will also give the US a chance to make up some ground on China, which has nearly $2 billion a year in trade, compared with the US which had $99.8 billion in trade in 2012.

Part of improving trade, says Jonathan Berman, author of Success in Africa, a book of interviews with African CEOs, is improving the perception among businessmen of Africa itself. That means China’s volume of trade with Africa is 2.7 times that of the U.S.

Berman says the summit is less about making trade agreements, which either have or have not been developed beforehand, than it is about changing the narrative about Africa.

“Businesspeople are not that much different from other people,” he tells National Public Radio. “They’re informed by the ecosystem around them … by what they heard growing up.”

The Washington Post, however, laments the fact that the issue of human rights appears to have been “wholly sidelined through all three days of conferences,” adding that there is little doubt “a purposeful, diplomatic choice was made to deny human rights its own session” by the administration.

“The idea, as national security adviser Susan E. Rice says, is that ‘in each of the sessions, there will be some very straight talk and give-and-take.’ The White House argues that human rights will weave itself into discussions, especially in the Civil Society Forum and the leaders’ session on governance. But like all uncomfortable topics, human rights will likely be pushed to the back-burner while more agreeable issues like ‘civic innovation’ and managing ‘transnational threats’ take precedence,” the Post’s editors write.

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