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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 18, 1999

U.S.-Africa Ministerial Joint Communique

From March 15-18, 1999, the United States hosted the first-ever meeting of African and American Ministers to enhance the U.S.-Africa partnership in order to foster greater economic development, trade, investment, political reform, and mutual economic growth in the 21st century. The President, eight members of the Cabinet, and four agency heads met for the first time with the African delegations. Eighty-three Ministers from forty-six sub-Saharan African nations, representatives from four North African nations, and the heads of eight African regional organizations participated in this historic and successful meeting. African Ministers also met with members of the U.S. Congress.

In an effort to consolidate and build upon the significant progress achieved in Africa in recent years, Ministers and senior U.S. officials discussed concrete ways to accelerate Africa's integration into the global economy. African Ministers expressed strong support for the immediate passage by Congress of the African Growth and Opportunity Act and for continued implementation of the President's Partnership for Economic Growth and Opportunity.

U.S. and African Ministers engaged in an active exchange on a broad range of economic, political, and social issues. They shared the view that high indebtedness constitutes a serious constraint to sustainable development in many African countries. In response to African requests for more effective debt relief, President Clinton proposed a six-point expanded debt relief program for highly indebted poor countries, which was warmly welcomed by the African ministers.

African and American officials discussed trade finance, market access, and access to private investment capital for ventures in Africa. Initiatives to enhance trade and investment links and economic policy dialogue were discussed as well as efforts to improve transportation and communications infrastructure and cooperation in agribusiness and energy. Ministers also reaffirmed the importance of addressing environmental issues. They noted that early ratification by the U.S. Senate of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification will help to mobilize community and international efforts to better manage land and water resources.

African Ministers and their U.S. counterparts exchanged ideas on how to enhance Africa's ability to compete in the global market through the development of its greatest resource - its people. Emphasizing the need for accelerating reform and continued development assistance as well as trade and investment, participants examined ways to bolster human capacity through investment in education, skills training, gender equity, micro-enterprises and health, particularly the prevention of HIV/AIDS. All agreed that these steps will accelerate the ability of Africa to sustain socio-economic development and reduce poverty. They also recognized the crucial role of regional cooperation in the overall development process and in the integration of African states into the global economy.

Recognizing that sub-Saharan Africa is a vast and diverse region marked by serious problems as well as significant successes, Ministers examined ways to enhance U.S.-Africa cooperation to prevent and resolve conflicts. They also agreed on the importance of strengthening democratic institutions and respect for worker and human rights, accelerating economic reform, and creating a positive climate for business through political and social reforms. Ministers noted that the Ministerial illuminated the breadth and depth of the U.S.-Africa partnership, and set it on a firm foundation for future mutual advancement in the 21st century. All recognized the need for continuing dialogue and agreed to work out the means of ensuring regular and timely follow-up.

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