Remarks at a Ceremony Marking United States Membership in the African Development Bank

February 8, 1983

President Reagan. Your Excellencies, President Mung'Omba, Secretary Regan, and Members of the Congress and distinguished guests:

One of the great pleasures of this office is that I often have a chance to do something unabashedly positive in nature. And I'm pleased to say that what we're about to do offers such an opportunity.

Today we mark the new American partnership, as I'm sure Secretary Regan has told you, with the people of Africa through our acceptance of membership in the African Development Bank. We take the step purposefully, and by it we underscore our commitment to African growth.

The United States has always taken a farsighted view to assist the growth of developing nations. At the Cancun summit in October of '81, the United States laid out a broad-based program of trade, investment, and aid to meet the diverse needs of the developing countries. Last year, we put this approach into practice in our Caribbean Basin Initiative for the developing countries of the Caribbean and Central America. And with this step today, the United States reaches out to its developing-nation partners in Africa.

The United States and the African Development Bank are not new friends by any means. Since '68 the United States has provided technical assistance to the bank through the Agency of International Development. And since '76 we've channeled part of our development assistance to Africa through the Bank's affiliates -- or affiliates, I should say, of the African Development Fund. And now, by opening its membership to the non-African countries, the African Development Bank has given us the opportunity for even closer cooperation. I'm happy to say we accept the invitation and stand ready to do our share.

We're painfully aware that Africa's economic development is encountering difficult obstacles. As the leader in the cause of the progress, the African Development Bank group along with other assistance organizations must strive for a more effective use of the limited development funds. The African governments who carry the heaviest responsibility for their own domestic economy -- or economic conditions must pursue a sound, growth-oriented policy if progress is to be made. Far too often, the governments of developing countries undermine their own private sector -- one of the essentials for commercial and industrial expansion -- only to see the standards of living decline in the countries that do that. If the leaders of Africa's nations recognize the critical role of private enterprise, they can then expect to share in much more of the worldwide economic upturn that we think is now beginning in this country.

Americans recognize both the special development needs and the great potential of Africa. The African Development Bank group symbolizes the determination of Africa and the international community to meet those needs and to achieve that potential. We in the United States are enthusiastic about this partnership as I'm sure the Secretary has told you. And we look forward to seeing tangible results from this cooperative and very special effort.

And now, I am going to sign a letter to the President of the Bank, and I am going to sign our action paper.

[At this point, President Reagan signed the letter and the Executive order.]

There, that makes it absolutely official.

President Mung'Omba. Mr. President of the United States, Mr. Secretary of the Treasury, and the Governor of the African Development Bank, distinguished Senators and Congressmen, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:

On behalf of the Board of Governors and the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank and on my own behalf, permit me to acknowledge with sincere gratitude the singular honor you have done the Bank and ourselves today in deciding to mark the signing of the formal instruments of accession of the United States to membership of the African Development Bank with this special ceremony.

Mr. President, the ceremony we have just witnessed is significant in many respects. But I think it's most obviously significant in that it marks the clearest commitment of the Government and the people of this great country to the development objectives and aspirations of the African peoples, as collectively expressed in their institutions that form the African Development Bank group.

Mr. President, we have long had clear and consistent proof of the sincerity and sympathy of the United States towards these institutions. Your country's assistance, both in the form of funds and technical assistance to the Bank, has been a reliable and invaluable supplement to the Bank's own efforts for nearly as long as the Bank has been in existence. And this, notwithstanding that for reasons that are now happily historical, the United States could not at the time be a member of the African Development Bank.

The same history of great care and concern is even more amply evident in the clear leadership position that the United States unreservedly accepted, in terms of both direct contributions and indirect assistance, when it became possible for this country to become a state participant in the African Development Fund a few years after its creation.

Sir, today it marks a further confirmation of the commitment of your people, your government, and we recognize it as an explicit assurance that it is a long-term commitment. And because it's long-term in nature, it further underscores the concern of the people of this country for the plight of the people of Africa, which it is the duty of the institutions of the Bank group to help mitigate.

On behalf of the governing bodies of the Bank, it is my singular honor and pleasant duty to welcome the United States of America to membership of the Bank. You will, Mr. President, have, no doubt, have been informed at least in outline of the long period of internal debate which preceded the decision of our Governors to admit non-African countries to membership of the Bank. In the end, what persuaded them was the consideration that non-African membership could create an opportunity on the continental level and, under their own leadership, for a more extensive dialog and partnership between the two sides in combating Africa's endemic development problems.

Mr. President, it is this opportunity which we in the Bank, with the assistance of countries like yours, have the responsibility to translate into reality. And I am confident, sir, that we will succeed in this endeavor. There can be no doubt that with the material and technical resources that will be made available to the Bank as the result of this day's work, its effectiveness in manning this frontier and pushing it back is significantly enhanced.

Mr. President, your decision to have present at this ceremony such a distinguished and broadly representative selection of the members of the executive, the legislature, and the business and banking organs of the Nation signifies clearly to all of us how essential is the participation of all these sectors of the Nation before this great adventure in international cooperation can become a true success.

Allow me, sir, to address a word of gratitude to the many concerned friends of Africa in the Senate and Congress, whose consistent support for this program over all these years has today brought our efforts to fruition. Equally, sir, a word of thanks is due to the staffs of both the executive and the legislative, who so tirelessly and patiently assisted us at all stages of our preparations.

Mr. President, I would on this happy occasion go further and take this windfall opportunity, on behalf of my colleagues, myself, the African Development Bank, personally to wish you a belated happy birthday and sincere good wishes for health, success, and God's blessings in your future endeavors.

Sir, on behalf of the Boards of Governors and Directors of the Bank group, accept our most sincere welcome to the African Development Bank and our thanks to you and to the people of your great country.

Thank you.

Note: President Reagan spoke at 1:51 p.m. at the ceremony in the State Dining Room at the White House.