Africa-US cooperation forum starts in Senegal

A forum on commercial and economic cooperation between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa began on Monday, gathering about 1 000 participants, including government ministers from around the continent.

The talks, due to take place until Wednesday in a plush hotel in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, was opened with speeches from Senegal’s Trade Minister, Abdou Diop; US Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns; and the President of the host country, Abdoulaye Wade.

The aim, according to the Senegalese government, is to encourage African countries to “sell well on the American market” in spite of strict import laws and tension over US subsidies to its own farmers for some competitive products.

Participants heard a taped message from US President George Bush early into the proceedings, in which he declared that a key piece of US legislation, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), is working well.

“Agoa is getting results,” Bush said. “Its success has proven that open trade and international investment are the best ways to promote African development.”

Agoa was introduced by the US in 2000.

Bush also mentioned a new project, the African Global Competitiveness Initiative, “which will help African nations and African businesses gain entry to the US markets” with technological and personal assistance.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due to attend part of the forum and Senegalese authorities said she is expected in Dakar on Tuesday and will make the closing speech at the trade meeting on Wednesday.

She is then expected to head for Sudan’s war-wracked Darfur region and the Middle East, according to the US State Department.

Following the official addresses, participants planned to go behind closed doors into workshop sessions to discuss different aspects of trade between Africa and the US.—Sapa-AFP

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