Obama Calls On Business To Bridge Divide Between U.S. And Africa

President Obama capped the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in downtown Washington, D.C., with a speech to the collected leaders and business people at the conference.

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Leaders from throughout Africa are in Washington for a summit meeting. Today President Obama addressed many of them at an event billed as the U.S.-Africa Business Forum. It's aimed at promoting the continent's economic growth. The president announced $33 billion worth of public and private commitments to Africa. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Obama spoke to what he said was the largest gathering any American president has hosted of African leaders. He said, the African economy is expanding, the middle class growing and government's are attracting record levels of investment. Still, he said, U.S. trade with all of Africa is only equal to U.S. trade with Brazil.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Of all the goods we export to the world only about 1 percent goes to sub-Saharan Africa. So we've got a lot of work to do.

NAYLOR: Obama announced several deals between U.S. companies and African nations as well as new financing. And he called on Congress to do its part.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

OBAMA: And I would be remiss if I did not add that House Republicans could help by reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. That is the right thing to do.

NAYLOR: Obama said, the key to Africa's economic growth is not in the U.S. but in Africa. As he urged leaders to stay away from the kinds of corruption endemic in many African nations. Tonight the president is hosting a state dinner for the leaders on the South lawn of the White House. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.

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