Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees international human rights and African issues, held a gathering today of countries from across the African continent to discuss complex issues such as trade, likely reductions in U.S. aid and other topics the continent faces.
Joining Smith were Ranking Democrat Rep. Donald Payne (NJ-10) on the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, and Senators Chris Coons (D-Del) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs.
"It is the hope of our members and the diplomatic corps that we can use today's event as the beginning of ongoing discussions on how to make the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, more broadly beneficial for the nearly 6,400 covered items," Smith told the assembled leaders. "We also have to work more effectively to help African nations produce more energy for themselves and developed world consumers such as the United States. In everything we do together, there must be collaboration and the goal of mutual benefit.
"Africa's population of approximately 1 billion people has a growing consumer base that is capable of being a larger player in global trade," Smith said. "One out of every three Africans is now considered to be in the middle class. This rising middle class will enable both economic and political development in Africa. For the United States and other developed nations, these developments benefit us as well by providing an enhanced market for our products and allowing African countries a larger tax base that will lessen the need for foreign aid. More robust African economies are beneficial to the entire global economy.
"We face in the United States a reduced ability to fund programs at previous levels. Consequently, we are working to ensure that the funds we do have are used as efficiently and effectively as possible," Smith said. Click here to read Congressman Smith's remarks.
"A Conversation Between Congress and the African Diplomatic Corps" a filled-to-capacity event, featured two dozen African ambassadors plus other diplomats and African Union officials. Diplomatic presentations were on trade, agriculture, food, security, energy and infrastructure issues. Remarks were given by Democratic Republic of the Congo Ambassador Faida Mitifu, Chairman, African Ambassadors Group.
The event was open to the media. More than 40 diplomats hailing from over 30 countries from the African Continent met at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center at the U.S. Capitol.