South African President Jacob Zuma speaks at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., the United States, Aug 4, 2014. Leaders of African countries are in Washington for the US-Africa summit scheduled to be held from Aug. 4 to 6. [Photo/Xinhua]
WASHINGTON - The United States on Monday kicked off its first ever summit with 50 African leaders with a series of fora on more traditional development issues like food security, and a meeting on the worsening Ebola epidemic that has cast a shadow over the three-day event.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has prioritized climate change in his career, urged both the US and Africa to engage in "climate-smart agriculture" to make fisheries and farms more resilient.
"The impacts of climate change are already being felt everywhere in the world: the Arctic, the Antarctic and everywhere in between and around," the top American envoy remarked. "All you have to do is look at the extreme conditions that farmers are dealing with around the world: hotter temperatures, longer droughts ... unpredictable rainfall patterns."
The summit comes as President Barack Obama focused more attention on Africa in his second term with an eye to tapping the economic potential the continent offers and leaving his own broader legacy, as he announced his own "Trade Africa" and "Power Africa" initiatives during his trip to three African countries in the summer of last year.
The meeting is organized around the theme "Investing in the Next Generation," with focus on trade and investment and expected announcements on agriculture, food and energy.
"The 7 billion people that we're focused on feeding today is going to become more than 9 billion people by 2050 -- 35 years," Kerry told a forum on food security in a changing climate. "And more than half of this population growth, I would add, is expected to occur in Africa."
He said the solution to having enough food with nutrition is by "focusing our efforts on the intersection of climate and food security, by adopting creative solutions that increase food production and build resilience to climate change, all the while cutting greenhouse gases," part of the Global Alliance for Climate- Smart Agriculture initiated and promoted by the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Both US Vice President Joseph Biden and Kerry urged African countries to combat corruption and defend democratic values.
Addressing a civil society forum, the veep said nation states around the world are dealing with the same kinds of issues facing Africa today, from fighting corruption to preventing economic favoritism.