A Q&A with Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré


Burkina Faso's president, Blaise Compaoré, left, speaks with Guinea's president, Alpha Condé, at "Session 1 - Investing in Africa's Future" of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 6. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Nearly 50 African heads of state and government traveled to Washington this week for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, and most of them apparently came away satisfied with the results. Here's a Q and A with Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré, capturing his sense of the conference. (The interview has been edited for brevity, and Compaoré's replies have been translated from French.)

Q: Clearly peace and security has been a subject of discussion at the meetings among leaders. What have you talked about in that context?

A: One cannot make progress on development without peace and security. And then we have to address the key issues that determine the stability of our countries by ourselves. First we have to undertake decisions to work on poverty, bad governance and ethnic and religious conflicts. We have to come together and assemble a coalition to successfully fight all these troubles.

[In terms of terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and Al-Shahab] We know that all these movements are well organized. So we have to get trained military teams and we have to [dispatch them]. We have to cooperate among ourselves, among the states.

Q: What did you think of President Obama's approach to Africa in the course of this conference?

A: When I saw President Obama heading the meeting, he gave the impression he knows the subject and is really working to engage and help Africa. This brings confidence to people. They can go back and exchange ideas on these issues ... [On the issue of development and electrification] I was impressed by his knowledge of the subject and his commitment to Africa. He wants to continue AGOA [the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act].

Q: What are some of the results you've seen from the summit?

A: I think the Africans can go back home and can help the development of their countries because they have been shown the American example. ... Also, it has pointed out the role of entrepreneurship.

We should not wait for everything from the outside. We should rely on our resources.

Q: Has Burkina Faso concluded any deals while here in Washington?

A: We are interested in solar energy, we have had discussions with American companies on that. We have talked with Monsanto about crop development, 10 years ago we started working with them. We grow cotton, and we now produce 800,000 tons [a year]. We are either Africa's first or second cotton producer, along with Egypt, it depends on production. We also talked about growing corn and legumes.

We are about to announce a project with a housing company [MIC Industries, located in Reston, Va.] to build houses, schools, possibly military barracks and other social institutions.

Q: Some people have criticized President Obama for not doing one-on-one meetings with each African leader, though obviously there are nearly 50 of them here. Do you consider that an issue?

A: No, I had a meeting with Secretary of State [John F.] Kerry. It went very well.

Q: While there's been a lot of emphasis on the summit's positive outcomes, are there obstacles that are so great you think a conference like this can't overcome them?

A: President Obama promised to commit a lot of money, but he has no money to give! We were all laughing yesterday [about how Congress controls the purse strings]. We have to wait for Congress to decide what to do.

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