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Powell: U.S. committed to Africa's economic growth


JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (CNN) -- Saying "Africa matters to America," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell outlined U.S. policy for the continent Friday.

"We have almost 35 million, and one, Americans of African descent," Powell said, pointing to himself as he spoke to students at the University of the Witwatersrand. "Last year, total U.S.-African trade approached $30 billion and America is Africa's largest single market. The United States is the leading foreign investor in Africa."

Powell focused on Africa's economic woes as well as ongoing conflicts that have claimed millions of lives. He said the United States is dedicated to helping lift the continent's economy through relief of debts and the ending of conflicts.

"As part of our efforts to promote development," he said, "America is leading international efforts to reduce debts of the poorest and most heavily indebted countries as they embrace sound policies and commit themselves to using the savings from debt relief to improve the lives of ordinary citizens through investment in education and health and other sectors of society that increase growth and alleviate poverty.


Highlights from Powell's speech (May 25)

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"Under this initiative my government has already committed to forgo 100 percent of the bilateral debt owed to us by 19 African nations."

In addition, he touted free trade as a way to boost Africa's economy.

"Free trade is a powerful instrument of freedom," Powell said. "A vibrant and dynamic market is the most powerful force for economic growth and sustainable development. This is not ideology talking. Facts speak for themselves and they tell us that free trade means bread -- bread for the neediest of our people."

But, for economic growth to take hold in Africa, Powell said the many conflicts there must end.

"Money, simply stated, is a coward," he emphasized. "Capital will run from those countries which are closed, which are corrupt, which do not have open systems, which do not believe in the rule of law, which are callous, or which are caught up in conflict. Money loves security, money loves transparency, legality and stability. Create those conditions in any country and money will flow in."

Powell pledged to continue to work with governments to rebuild war-torn countries and end ongoing conflicts by supporting treaties already in place.

Powell also reinforced the United States' commitment to helping end the spread of AIDS, which has ravaged Africa.

"The AIDS crisis is not just a health crisis across this continent, it is an economic crisis, a social crisis, a crisis for democracy, a threat to stability, a threat to the very future of Africa because it is decimating the very people who must build that more prosperous democratic, peaceful future," he said.

Twenty-five million Africans are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The disease has left 12 million African children orphans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The United States, earlier this month, pledged an additional $200 million for a global trust fund to battle HIV and AIDS.

Powell is on a four-day trip to Africa that started Wednesday in Mali. He will next visit Kenya and Uganda in East Africa.

• U.S. Department of State
• U.S. National Institutes of Health
• The AIDS Foundation of South Africa
• UNAIDS, The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS

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