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US wants to be partner, not patron of Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 5 – The United States called on Wednesday on Africans to take the lead in stamping out corruption and crime, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning that bad governance was holding the continent back.

Clinton launched a wide-ranging Africa tour with a keynote speech in Kenya, whose favourite son — US President Barack Obama — underscored the message in a surprise video.

"Only Africans can unlock Africa\’s potential," Obama said, returning to a theme of good governance he made on his first presidential visit to the continent last month in Ghana.

"To all Africans who are pursuing a future of hope and opportunity, know this: you have a partner and a friend in the United States," said Obama, whose father was born in Kenya.

Clinton, addressing a forum of some 40 nations that enjoy preferential access to the US market, said the United States sought to be a "partner, not patron" of the continent.

Clinton said that the United States was committed to supporting Africa, including by boosting investment and stepping up aid to agriculture to fight hunger.

But she warned that "leaders have to lead."

"True economic progress in Africa will depend on responsible governments that reject corruption, enforce the rule of law, and deliver results for their people," Clinton said.

"This is not just about good governance — it\’s also about good business," said Clinton, who arrived here Tuesday.

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The 11-day trip, which comes just three weeks after Obama visited the continent, is Clinton\’s longest since she became the top US diplomat six months ago and her first to sub-Saharan Africa.

Clinton, accompanied by Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, said she sought not to lecture but to share with Africa the "benefits of the mistakes" from the United States.

"Creating a favorable investment climate also requires countries to translate politics into governing," she told the forum, which was attended by Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Her remark was a thinly veiled reference to Kenya, a top Washington ally on the continent but the target of some criticism over its failure to implement key points of a power-sharing deal that ended a cycle of deadly electoral violence last year.

Clinton was to head straight after her speech into a rare joint meeting with the two leaders. An aide said she would press them to fully implement the deal, that includes the creation of a special tribunal.

Kibaki and Odinga, in separate speeches to the gathering, acknowledged the problems in African economies but appealed to the United States to step up investment.

"I would like to take this opportunity to urge American investors to increase their investments in Africa as part of their efforts to support development in the continent," Kibaki said.

The United States was also set to ink an investment deal with Mauritius, its latest partnership with the continent.

But Clinton said that Africans\’ first priority should be to boost trade with one another, not the United States and other rich economies.

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"The United States has 300 million people — Africa has 700 million plus," she said. "The nations of Africa trade the least with each other of any region in the world," she pointed out.

Touching on a theme that she will highlight throughout her trip, Clinton also called on African nations to ensure the rights and improve the economic status of women.

A strong role for women "is not only a moral imperative. It is an economic imperative too," she said.

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