Health issues top agenda at African summit

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton speaks to an audience of Liberian youths as Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf watches at the presidential mansion in Monrovia, Liberia. Clinton and Sirleaf signed a deal Monday that would provide Liberia with low-cost AIDS drugs. Clinton also on Monday attended a summit in Abuja, Nigeria, focusing on health issues on the African continent.

? Former President Clinton told African leaders Monday that they need to strengthen their governments so that they can address long-standing problems of hunger and disease.

Clinton spoke at a summit bringing African political and business leaders together with their U.S. counterparts in search of partnerships to lift the world’s poorest continent.

“We can’t stop the spread of AIDS without building the capacity of government,” Clinton said. He also used the meeting to push cooperation agreements with African countries under which his foundation plans to provide HIV/AIDS drugs to Africans at low costs.

Presidents from more than a dozen African countries are in the Nigerian capital of Abuja with executives from companies including Chevron Corp., Coca-Cola Co., General Motors, and DaimlerChrysler AG at the seventh Leon Sullivan Summit. The meeting takes its name from a renowned U.S. civil rights campaigner who worked to get black Americans to share their wealth and experience with Africa.

“We need to say where we want Africa to be in five to 10 years from now,” Clinton said. “So that every boy and girl living in this continent has a chance to live his or her own dream.”

Partnerships between the public and private sectors forged at the four-day summit will aim to quicken both economic and social development along the lines of the Sullivan Principle, an international business ethics code that urges corporate responsibility and was credited with helping end apartheid in South Africa.

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz is scheduled to address participants today.

Sullivan, who died in 2001, first articulated the principle in the 1970s after becoming the first black board member of General Motors Corp.

The last summit in Nigeria in 2003 was opened by President Bush and attended by leading black Americans, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the former ambassador to the United Nations and mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young.

Donations arising from the summits, which began in Ivory Coast in 1991, have helped the Sullivan Foundation build 170 schools, bring 750 American teachers to Africa and distribute $20 million worth of books. In partnership with the World Bank, the foundation has trained more than 1 million people to build wells.

Also on Monday, Clinton met with the president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in her country’s capital, Monrovia. They signed a deal that would provide Liberia with low-cost AIDS drugs and assist the West African nation in combating HIV/AIDS.