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Obama woos Africa with billions of dollars in deals

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama announced billions of dollars in investment for Africa on Tuesday, as the United States challenges China and Europe's leading roles in the continent's economic emergence.

But America's first black president urged African leaders to not let corruption or rebellions sidetrack their gains, as he pledged a new partnership at a landmark summit with African leaders

“As president, I made it clear that the United States is determined to be a partner in Africa's success, a good partner, an equal partner and a partner for the long term,” he declared.

“We don't look to Africa simply for its natural resources. We recognize Africa for its greatest resource, which is its people and its talent and their potential,” he told 45 heads of state and government.

On the business-focused second day of the three-day summit, which brought together scores of U.S. and African business tycoons, Obama announced US$33 billion in new investments and financing from the private sector and government agencies.

This includes a new US$12 billion for Africa's crucial power sector — including contributions from Sweden and the World Bank — an industry Washington has particularly focused on for U.S. participation.

On top of that was another US$14 billion in investment deals, and US$7 billion in loans to support U.S. exports to Africa, which have sagged while imports, mainly oil, have surged in recent years.

Need for Good Governance

Obama pitched American business as a potent rival to China and Europe in the race to benefit from Africa's economic emergence.

“We don't simply want to extract minerals from the ground for our growth,” he said in a dig at China, which over the past decade has become Africa's leading partner, with more than double the trade that the U.S. has with the continent.

“The bottom line is that the United States is making a major long-term investment in African progress,” Obama said.

“That will support development across Africa and jobs in the United States.”

But he stressed that African leaders had to do their part to protect their gains.

“Capital is one thing. Development programs and projects are one thing. But rule of law, regulatory reform, good governance: those things matter even more,” he said.

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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks with Takunda Ralph Michael Chingonzo, 21, an entrepreneur from Zimbabwe, at the closing session of the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 5. (AP)

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