She pledged to pursue "a new partnership for a new century" with the continent.
Albright's speech set the tone for Clinton's tour beginning Sunday. His visits to Botswana, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda and Rwanda represent the most ambitious Africa trip ever undertaken by a sitting president.
"The people of Africa should understand and many of them need convincing that when the United States says it wants to work with them on the basis of shared interest and mutual respect, we are not just blowing smoke," Albright said.
"We mean it and in a big way over the long term not only because it is right but because it is smart."
The administration's Africa policy is focused on promoting trade and investment on the continent. Legislation to accomplish these goals was approved by the House last week and now awaits action by the Senate.
Albright said the United States envisions the full integration of Africa into the world economy and the global economy.
This, she said, "will establish lifelines of commerce and investment that will help Africans reduce poverty, raise living standards and equip their people with 21st century skills."
On the political front, Albright alluded to the post-colonial African phenomenon of "the big man who comes to power, stays for life and robs his country blind."
She said the United States will join with Africa's best leaders in declaring an end to that era.
"A new era of ever-deepening democracy must be built," she said.
Clinton will be the first president to visit sub-Saharan Africa since Jimmy Carter visited Liberia 20 years ago. It also is the culmination of a series of high-profile official visits by prominent Americans over the past 17 months. Albright toured the continent in December following a visit a year ago by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher visited the continent in October 1996.
Written by George Gedda
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