Obama, African leaders talk security, governance

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Obama, African leaders talk security, governance
President Barack Obama smiles during the first session of the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. Seated next to President Obama if Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Secretary of State John Kerry leans over Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania to help with his microphone as President Barack Obama listens during the first session of the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama, joined by Prime Minister of Algeria Abdelmalek Sellal, left, and President of Mauritania Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, center, speaks during at the opening session at the US Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. Obama and dozens of African leaders opened talks on two key issues that threaten to disrupt economic progress on the continent: security and government corruption. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama talks with President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania, during the US African Leaders Summit at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. President Barack Obama and dozens of African leaders opened talks Wednesday on two key issues that threaten to disrupt economic progress on the continent: security and government corruption. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama, far right, is helped with his microphone by, from left, Algeria Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania, during the US African Leaders Summit at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. Obama and dozens of African leaders opened talks on two key issues that threaten to disrupt economic progress on the continent: security and government corruption. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama listens as Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, president of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania speaks during the first session of the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Secretary of State John Kerry, right, joined by, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, speaks to media at the State Department, in Washington, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014, before a bilateral meeting at the US Africa Summit. Nearly 50 African heads of state are gathering in Washington for an unprecedented summit. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
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By JULIE PACE

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama and dozens of African leaders opened talks Wednesday on two key issues that threaten to disrupt economic progress on the continent: security and government corruption.

The discussions cap an unprecedented three-day gathering of African leaders in Washington. Much of the conference has centered on boosting U.S. financial ties with Africa, a continent that is home to six of the world's 10 fastest growing economies and a rapidly expanding middle class.

As he has throughout the summit, Obama sought to highlight Africa's potential, particularly as an untapped trading partner for U.S. businesses. During remarks at the State Department Wednesday morning, he said that even though the continent faces significant challenges, "A new Africa is emerging."

Yet White House officials acknowledge that security issues and governance challenges continue to constrain the continent's overall prosperity. There are particular concerns about Boko Haram, a ruthlessly violent Islamist group in Nigeria that was responsible for the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls earlier this year.

Obama said the security discussions would center on ways to enable African governments to boost their own peacekeeping and counterterrorism capabilities while moving away from the need for costly outside intervention.

Leaders are also expected to discuss good governance and transparency, with U.S. officials arguing to their African counterparts that both are necessary conditions for economic growth.

The president also acknowledged the ongoing Ebola crisis gripping three African nations, saying the countries affected have overcome great challenges in the past and are "drawing on that same spirit" now. The leaders of Liberia and Sierra Leone canceled plans to travel to Washington in order to deal with the crisis, while the president of Guinea is attending the talks.

Obama will close the summit with a late-afternoon news conference. First lady Michelle Obama is also hosting a spouses' event with former first lady Laura Bush.

On Tuesday, Obama announced $33 billion in U.S. commitments aimed at boosting financial ties with the continent. More than half of the commitments came from the private sector, including Coca-Cola Company and General Electric.

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