Bush Applauds African Presidents

Armando Guebuza, Botswana President Festus Mogae, Niger's President Mamadou Tandja and Ghana's President John Agyekum Kufuor, in the Oval Office of the White House Monday, June 13, 2005 in Washington.
President Bush praised five democratically elected African presidents Monday as examples to neighboring nations and said debt relief and liberalized trade can help spread freedom on the troubled continent.

Appearing publicly with the presidents of Botswana, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia and Niger, Mr. Bush said, "What a strong statement that these leaders have made about democracy and the importance of democracy on the continent of Africa."

"All of us share a fundamental commitment to advancing democracy and opportunity on the continent of Africa," he told the five, all elected or re-elected last year in democratic elections.

"And all of us believe that one of the most effective ways to advance democracy and deliver hope to the people of Africa is through mutually beneficial trade," Mr. Bush said.

The president touted a large jump in trade with Africa last year that he said is due to a pact he signed into law. It offers duty-free treatment on some goods and other trade benefits to 37 of the 48 nations in sub-Saharan Africa. The pact also requires participating countries to show they are making progress toward a market-based economy, the rule of law, free trade, the protection of workers' rights and policies that will reduce poverty.

"That's how you spread wealth," Mr. Bush said. "That's how you encourage hope and opportunity."

He also said the United States is helping Africans by working with others in the Group of Eight major industrialized nations to eliminate more than $40 billion of debt owed by 18 of the world's poorest nations, including 14 in Africa.

"We believe by removing a crippling debt burden, we'll help millions of Africans improve their lives and grow their economies," he said.

The United States is the largest single provider of economic aid to Africa, but critics contend it is not doing enough because it has given a lower percentage of its gross domestic product in aid than other major industrialized countries.