National Press Club

Burkina Faso President urges further US investment, cooperation after Summit

August 8, 2014 | By Yasmine El-Sabawi | yasmine.elsabawi@gmail.com

President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso spoke at a National Press Club Newsmaker news conference August 7, 2014. President Compaoré, speaking in his native French, took questions from the audience via interpretation.

President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso spoke at a National Press Club Newsmaker news conference August 7, 2014. President Compaoré, speaking in his native French, took questions from the audience via interpretation.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

The leader of one of the poorest countries in the world told a packed Newsmaker event Thursday evening at the National Press Club that greater investment by the U.S. private sector and government cooperation on projects can “show that Africa and America are working together.”

Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaoré said this week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit only cemented his belief that U.S. cooperation -- not aid -- is needed to create jobs, boost production, and reinforce security in his country and on the African continent as a whole.

“African people think we came here to bring [back] suitcases full of bank notes,” he said. Instead, Compaoré is heading home with what he called “financial commitments” from U.S. companies such as Monsanto, which began a partnership with Burkina Faso in 2008 when the country approved the use of genetically modified seeds by cotton farmers.

Cotton production has grown by eight times since, Compaoré said, adding that Africa and the U.S. “need to involve the private sector” in order to ensure economic growth.

He particularly urged investment in energy, which remains an area of major concern.

“In Africa we have it all,” he said, listing resources such as coal, gas, oil, uranium, and water.

“The problem in Africa is one of organization,” he continued. “We need organizational funding.”

“Africa is always quoted as the continent with the highest growth rate,” he said. “[But] if we had electricity, we could do more.”

Compaoré cited the 14-year-old African Growth and Opportunity Act signed by President Bill Clinton as a partnership “benefiting Africa and also creating jobs on the continent.”

However he acknowledged that from a three-day summit, “it is difficult to go back with … a finalized agreement.”

But without an end in sight to the armed conflict in northern Mali -- Burkina Faso’s neighbor to the north –- Compaoré said U.S. military training and intelligence capabilities can make a difference.

“We need to benefit from [their] advanced technologies,” he said.

“The crisis in Mali … for me, it was a disaster,” he said, adding that not only was there a coup d’état, but also an “invasion” by French troops, a surge in “narco-traffickers,” and “groups calling for independence,” namely Ansar al Dine, an al-Qaeda offshoot.

According to Compaoré, his mediation efforts with the Islamist group two years ago “secured an agreement” focused on “the integrity of Mali” and the movement of armed groups into barracks.

“We needed to re-establish republican institutions,” he said, but found the government in the Mali capital of Bamako “was reluctant to start talks.”

Compaoré admitted he couldn’t predict the road ahead.

“Will they have more advanced decentralization? Autonomy?” he asked. “The armed groups are very many in the region… we could have havoc in Mali.”

As the leader of a West African nation of some 15 million people, Compaoré also took time to address the current Ebola outbreak in the region, and said he has “put in place a fund to monitor this crisis.”

But in terms of finding effective treatment for the disease, he turned to the United States. “We are counting on the U.S. … because we know they have already started to work on it.”