NAIROBI (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday investors will shun African states with weak leaders and economies riddled with corruption and crime.
Speaking at a trade meeting with sub-Saharan African countries, Clinton repeated a message given last month by U.S. President Barack Obama in a speech in Ghana.
“True economic progress in Africa...also depends on responsible governments that reject corruption, enforce the rule of law and deliver results for their people. This is not just about good governance, this is about good business,” Clinton said at the meeting.
“Investors will be attracted to states that do this. And they will not be attracted to states with failed or weak leadership, or crime and civil unrest, or corruption that taints every transaction and decision.”
In a video message after Clinton spoke, Obama, whose father was Kenyan, said: “Only Africans can unlock Africa’s potential.”
“Open markets alone are not enough. Development requires the rule of law, transparency, accountability, and an atmosphere that welcomes investment,” he said.
Kenya, east Africa’s biggest economy, was ranked by Transparency International last month as the region’s most graft-prone nation. It said a bribe was expected or solicited in nearly half of all transactions.
Washington is looking at ways to boost trade with the 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for little more than 1 percent of U.S. exports and only 3 percent of imports.
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said African goods could not compete against those from the United States that were subsidized.
“We need partnership and not patronage,” Odinga said at the meeting.
The U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is due to expire in 2015, and some African countries would like that extended as the deadline causes uncertainty among potential investors.
The United States is reviewing whether to suspend trade benefits for Madagascar following President Andry Rajoelina’s March power grab. But U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who is accompanying Clinton to Nairobi, said a decision had not yet been taken.
Clinton said Africa had an opportunity to create its own “Green Revolution” thanks to new technology and innovation that would let countries bypass the “dirty” stages of development.
“Right now, Africa suffers from a severe shortage of electric power and too many countries rely on oil as virtually their only source of revenue. But the capacity for producing renewable and clean energy is far and wide,” she said.
Clinton said empowering women in Africa would be a valuable step to boosting development, and respecting their rights was a moral and economic imperative.
“The social, political and economic marginalization of women across Africa has left a void in this continent that undermines progress and prosperity every day,” she said.