Obama to meet Buhari, address U.S.-Africa Business Forum in New York

*Media briefing by the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, Ben Rhodes.

*Media briefing by the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, Ben Rhodes.

*Both leaders to discuss dialogue efforts with N/Delta militants, Boko Haram
Oscarline Onwuemenyi
20 September 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – President Barack Obama will meet Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari today (Tuesday) following the U.S. leader’s last address to the United Nations General Assembly as president.

Particulars of the meeting was disclosed during a media briefing by the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, Ben Rhodes, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, to preview the president’s trip to the United Nations General Assembly

According to Rhodes, “Following the address to the U.N. General Assembly, the President will have a bilateral meeting with President Buhari of Nigeria. This has clearly been a priority for us in terms of investing in the success of the Nigerian government as they deal with a range of very difficult challenges.

“I think the President will commend President Buhari for the accomplishments that he’s made during this first year in office following a successful democratic transition. He’ll want to discuss ways that the United States can continue to support the governance, security, and economic reform efforts within Nigeria.”

He added that, “They’ll certainly discuss cooperation against the Islamic State’s West Africa Province, which is also known as Boko Haram, as well as the next steps for responding to the humanitarian emergency in Northeast Nigeria and how we can engage Niger Delta stakeholders in a dialogue to end the militancy that has caused so many challenges in the region.

“So a very important opportunity for the President to meet with the leader of the largest Africa country.”

Obama will also participate in a ‘Leaders Summit on Refugees’, which U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power called “one of the centerpieces of the President’s trip this year.”

Obama will host the summit along with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other leaders. Power spoke in a media call on Friday along with Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes.

On Wednesday, Obama will address the the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, which is hosted by Commerce Secretary Penny Spritzer and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. Rhodes said the Forum will focus on “three African countries in particular that have been on the move – Nigeria, Tunisia, and Cote D’Ivoire,” Rhodes said.

“We’ll also be highlighting the administration’s efforts to promote the U.S.-Africa Economic Partnership, including the range of U.S. financial and technical tools that support U.S. businesses and investors who are working in Africa,” he said.

Excerpts from press call on September 16 by Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, Ben Rhodes, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power to preview the president’s trip to the United Nations General Assembly

MR. RHODES: On Tuesday, the President will give his address to the U.N. General Assembly. I think with respect to the speech, what he will want to do is step back and review some of the progress that’s been made over the last eight years, but also review some of the trends that have been shaping our international order for many years and that have led up to a really critical moment as the international community responds to a range of different crises. …

Following the address to the U.N. General Assembly, the President will have a bilateral meeting with President Buhari of Nigeria. This has clearly been a priority for us in terms of investing in the success of the Nigerian government as they deal with a range of very difficult challenges. I think the President will comment President Buhari for the accomplishments that he’s made during this first year in office following a successful democratic transition. He’ll want to discuss ways that the United States can continue to support the governance, security, and economic reform efforts within Nigeria.

They’ll certainly discuss cooperation against the Islamic State’s West Africa Province, which is also known as Boko Haram, as well as the next steps for responding to the humanitarian emergency in Northeast Nigeria and how we can engage Niger Delta stakeholders in a dialogue to end the militancy that has caused so many challenges in the region. So a very important opportunity for the President to meet with the leader of the largest Africa country. …

On Wednesday, September 21st, the President will participate in the U.S.-Africa Business Forum. And this follows up on a longstanding priority of the administration to promote trade, investment, and deeper commercial and business ties between the United States and Africa.

And when we hosted the African heads of state here in Washington, we had a similar event. At that event two years ago, which was the largest that any U.S. President has ever held with African heads of state, we were able to work with the Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies to co-host the African Business Forum, and will partner with those same organizations this time around.

At that forum, we had 200 of the top U.S. and African CEOs and dozens of African heads of state come together for a day that focused on how to build and capitalize on Africa’s enormous economic potential. And out of that forum, $33 billion in public and private sector investments and commitments were announced, and these are partnerships that are already helping to grow economies and create jobs and develop new industries.

And our approach to supporting development in Africa has put a real premium on trying to accelerate economic growth that is broad-based and high-quality to supplement what we do through our development assistance in areas like food security, power, and health.

So at this forum, we’ll be able to take stock of the progress that’s been made since the 2014 Africa Business Forum. And we’ll focus on partnerships between the United States and Africa that are solving concrete problems and enhancing growth, and we have four areas that we’re particularly focused on.

One is how diversified economies can transform risk into opportunity. Another is how infrastructure development and sustainable growth go together. Third is how innovation and technology can help promote effective, high-quality and sustainable economic growth. And the fourth is how are we shaping a 21st century workforce. All of these issues, together, I think speak to how Africa is poised to really continue to take off in terms of economic growth and delivering better opportunities for people on the continent.

The forum will feature three African countries in particular that have been on the move — Nigeria, Tunisia, and Cote D’Ivoire. Of course, each of these has also pursued democratic transitions of government in recent years, and so it’s also an opportunity to highlight the interconnection between our support for democracy and our support for development.

With those countries in the spotlight, we’ll also have the opportunity to work with other heads of state and CEOs who will be present who can speak to their efforts to enhance broader U.S.-Africa trade and investment.

We’ll also be highlighting the administration’s efforts to promote the U.S.-Africa Economic Partnership, including the range of U.S. financial and technical tools that support U.S. businesses and investors who are working in Africa. Over the last eight years, through our Doing Business in Africa campaign, the United States government has expanded our presence and engagement in Africa, including by opening new commercial service offices and supporting our businesses that are finding opportunities to invest in Africa.

And our Trade Africa Initiative has worked to help countries eliminate barriers to trade within Africa and between Africa and the United States. And this is helping create markets for more U.S. products, and it’s supporting the utilization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which was successfully renewed as well. So this will speak to a centerpiece of the President’s Africa policy, and we’re very much looking forward to that opportunity.

AMBASSADOR POWER: Thanks so much, Ben. I’ll just say a few quick words on the significance of this particular General Assembly, building on what Ben has said, and then I’ll go to the refugee-related events at the U.N.

So as Ben noted, this will be the last U.N. General Assembly for President Obama, who came here for the first time in 2009 when the United States was more isolated on the world stage, and he pledged a new era of engagement, recognizing that when threats are transnational and across borders, it’s really important that we be able to build coalitions and draw on not only on national capabilities, but on multilateral capabilities. While we paid off our U.N. dues that had accrued in previous years and renewed our commitment to the U.N. by paying our bills in full, we renewed our commitment to multilateralism and even chose to work within underperforming multilateral institutions like the Human Rights Council, rather than criticize them from the outside. And as Ben noted and has been instrumentally involved in, we made good on the President’s pledge to engage with those with whom we disagree, opening up new, profound opportunities for diplomatic progress.

I think it’s hard to overstate the transformative effect that this approach has had, and I’m the fortunate beneficiary here, as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, in getting to experience again the sea change and the desire of other countries to work with us and, actually more than they did in the past I think, to step up and be part of international coalitions to try to address these really challenging 21st century threats. …

I think just looking back, again, at some of the high points over the last eight years, what was a great low point for the international system — mainly the initial response to the devastating Ebola crisis in West Africa — I think became an example of the United States leading. President Obama was the first world leader to deploy troops and public health professionals into the eye of the storm at the height of the epidemic, and then we leveraged that investment and that commitment to rally contributions from other countries. And now people hardly talk about Ebola, even though at the time the President made those decisions, the estimates were that a million people would be affected within a matter of months.

We have worked tirelessly to bolster a very distinct U.N. capability, and that is peacekeeping. There are peacekeeping missions all around the world in some of the most dangerous places, including places like Mali, where there’s a nexus with terrorism and extremism. President Obama, in the first summit of its kind, convened world leaders last year, as Ben been noted, mobilizing pledges for more than 40,000 troops and police, along with sophisticated enabling capabilities.

One of the things that has plagued peacekeeping performance is that the U.N. has had to rely on what it has rather than what it needs. And so part of the President’s insight is to try to get more countries to step up, more advanced militaries to be part of it. Eighteen military units have already deployed, or are in the process of doing so out of that summit, and more than 90 percent of countries that made pledges have taken significant steps to delivering them, which is a much higher rate than a lot of pledging conferences have here at the U.N.

… Okay, that brings me, I think, to one of the centerpieces of the President’s trip this year, which is the Leaders Summit on Refugees that he will be hosting along with a number of other leaders. I don’t have to tell this audience about the gravity of the displacement crisis that we are all living right. More than 21 million people have fled their homes and crossed international borders. There’s 65 million people displaced overall, the largest number since World War II. From Syria alone, nearly 5 million refugees have crossed the Syrian border trying to seek safety from barrel bombs and chemical weapons attacks and terrorist attacks. And all of these individuals, every one of these numbers, is a face and a person with a family. They are facing very uncertain futures and they’re looking to the rest of the world and to the U.N., of course, for help.

President Obama is going to convene a summit along with the leaders of Jordan, Mexico, Sweden, Germany, Canada, and Ethiopia, as well as the Secretary General, on September 20th. And this summit we have been driving toward for many, many months, securing from those countries that participate new and significant commitments in several areas.

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