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Public Papers - 1990 - March

Remarks to the African Development Bank Roundtable


Being told in advance that this distinguished group was here, I just wanted to stop over and say a quick hello. I hope your meetings have been fruitful; and I hope you'll get the idea that our administration and, hopefully, Congress -- over which I have no control, I might add -- agrees you all are doing the Lord's work and are on the right track in terms of investment. And so, I want to come over here to welcome officially the members of the African Business Roundtable to the United States and, more particularly, to the White House.

You know, Africa -- I view it as a continent with enormous potential, richly endowed with natural resources and -- from my own personal experience as Ambassador to the United Nations and then as one who has traveled rather extensively in Africa -- richly endowed with warm and very friendly people. And we all recognize that Africa faces tremendous challenges. I don't know how one quantifies the problems facing each continent, but I know they're tough; I know they're extraordinarily complex in Africa. Overcoming poverty -- I'll never be the same as when I was in the northern part of Africa and went across the Sahel and saw some of the famine there. The disease problems -- I do salute those who have worked hard in that, the United Nations and others making a significant contribution. And I hope our country has, and we will continue to try to. But I know it concerns everybody here. And then, of course, there's always unresolved, tragic and, I would say, needless armed conflicts. So, this presents a picture of not just events that adversely affect one continent -- it affects a lot of them -- but certainly something that I think we would all agree -- these things plague Africa.

But Africa's most fundamental challenge, I think, is on the economic development side: harnessing the continent's natural and human resources side to create better and richer lives for all of the people there. Governments clearly have a role to play, and African political leaders need to create the proper economic framework for development. Donors, including the United States, have an opportunity to encourage and to support sound economic policies, moving the market forces as much as possible -- private incentives, private ownership. But the key to a richer and more vibrant economy across the continent is found, I think, therefore, in the private sector, not in the hands of governments. That's why you and other African entrepreneurs represent the bright promise of Africa's economic future working, I hope, more and more with America. You're doing exactly the right thing in looking for investment opportunities at home, seeking support from private investors abroad, and working to develop mutually beneficial trade relationships.

I know that you have a busy schedule here in Washington. And I was told that you're going to see some ``outside the beltway'' America. We politicians always refer to Washington as ``inside the beltway,'' meaning it's a little out of touch with the rest of the country. So, I am delighted to know that you're going to Atlanta and Dallas, in my home State of Texas -- and that's where I got started in business. There's a good business ethic there, climate and feeling. I think you'll find a receptivity in that part of the world which I hope you'll see not only as hospitable but as something that's very promising economics-wise. The same thing would be true of Atlanta and throughout the rest of the country.

But I really just popped over here to wish you a very enjoyable stay. We're glad you came, and we trust that this visit will prove profitable as well as enjoyable. So, good luck in your important work. You really are on the same wavelength we are in terms of our approach to much of the evolution that's taking place in Eastern Europe and, indeed, in our own hemisphere. We think that the private sector stabilization and growth is very, very important, and I think the business groups such as this can disproportionately contribute to the well-being of the continent. So, thank you very much, and I hope we can work closely with you, President N'Diaye, and others as well, to be a catalyst for your success.

I don't know what goes next, but that's the end of my performance.

Note: The President spoke at 10 a.m. in the Indian Treaty Room at the Old Executive Office Building. Babacar N'Diaye is President of the Bank.

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