Formed from the African Growth and Opportunities Act that was signed by President Clinton and went into effect in 2000, the AGOA Forum is focused on discussing critical economic and trade issues facing sub-Saharan Africa. The AGOA was intended to expand access to American markets for the 39 Sub-Saharan African countries.
"By breaking down old barriers and opening new markets, we not only increase trade between our countries. We create powerful incentives for African entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, to create jobs and build a brighter tomorrow for their children," Mr. Obama said.
Additionally, the president emphasized the importance of a strong U.S.-Africa partnership, saying that Africa is a "fundamental part of our interconnected world."
"History shows that economic growth is among the greatest forces for progress in lifting people out of poverty," Mr. Obama said. "There's so much more we can do together to plant the seeds of our economic recovery, and to achieve lasting prosperity."
Mr. Obama also pledged an increase in foreign aid and a $20 billion investment in agricultural development to "unleash transformational change" and "promote African self-sufficiency."
Reiterating the message from his trip to Ghana last month, Mr. Obama stressed the relationship between good governance and economic growth.
"Only Africans can ensure the good governance and strong institutions upon which development depends," Mr. Obama said. "Development requires the rule of law, transparency, accountability, and an atmosphere that welcomes investment. And I encourage every country to set concrete goals for overcoming the obstacles to economic growth."
Mr. Obama's message echoes that of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's who is attending the conference as she begins a seven-nation tour of Africa.
"We believe in Africa's promise. We are committed to Africa's future and we will be partners with Africa's people," Clinton said, CNN reports.
Clinton also encouraged trade between African countries.
"The nations of Africa trade the least with each other than any region of the world," Clinton said, according to CNN. "The biggest single opportunity you have right now is to open up trade with each other."
In addition to Clinton, trade ambassador Ron Kirk and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack were also in attendance.