President Obama noted that all of his African guests face difficult political challenges at home, but that those struggles had been largely supplanted by stability and economic progress.
Other leaders at the meeting included those from Cape Verde, Senegal and Sierra Leon.
President Obama said improved governance is taking route in Africa as evidenced by the leaders who sat with him at the White House.
“The reason that I am meeting with these four it may exemplify the progress that we are seeing in Africa.
“All of them have had to deal with some extraordinary challenges; Sierra Leon just ten year ago was in the middle of the brutal war as we have never seen and as of now we have seen consecutive free and fair elections.
Earlier in an interview with VOA, Sierra Leon president echoed Obama’s comments saying “nobody should get to leadership or power other than through the ballot box.”
And President Obama said the goal is to build on those gains.
“What we have learnt over the last several decades is that when you got good governance, when you have democracies that work sound management of public funds, transparency, it turns out that, that is not only good for the state and the functioning of the government but also for economic development.
And on the economic side, the American leader noted that Africa is making great strides.
“Africa is actually been growing faster like almost every other region of the world. It started on the low base and it still has a lot of work to do. That means building human capacity, improving education and job skills for rapidly growing and young population,” said Obama.
President Obama then assured the leaders that the United States will be a partner for achieving further progress in their countries.
After the meeting, Malawi president Banda wrote on her facebook page Her Excellency Dr Joyce Banda that “I feel honoured to be invited to the White House and meet the United States President, Barack Obama”.
“I and the USA president held very important talks about Malawi , Southern Africa and the support United States Government provides to the region on peace , security and economic stability.”
She further wrote: “In the history of our nation (Malawi) , I feel humbled to be the first president to be invited to the White House to meet the USA counterpart to have talks that focus on the interests of the people of Malawi , Southern African region and the United States of America .
“It is my obligation, as your president, to make sure our country does not isolate itself from its International partners, in particular, the United States of America that has always been supportive of our democracy/ peace, trade, economic development and health programs.”
Malawi ranks among the world’s most densely populated and least developed countries. The economy is predominately agricultural with about 80% of the population living in rural areas. Agriculture, which has benefited from fertilizer subsidies since 2006, accounts for one-third of GDP and 90% of export revenues. The performance of the tobacco sector is key to short-term growth as tobacco accounts for more than half of exports. The economy depends on substantial inflows of economic assistance from the IMF, the World Bank, and individual donor nations. In 2006, Malawi was approved for relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program. In December 2007, the US granted Malawi eligibility status to receive financial support within the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) initiative.
The government faces many challenges including developing a market economy, improving educational facilities, facing up to environmental problems, dealing with the rapidly growing problem of HIV/AIDS, and satisfying foreign donors that fiscal discipline is being tightened. Since 2005 President MUTHARIKA’S government has exhibited improved financial discipline under the guidance of Finance Minister Goodall GONDWE and signed a three year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility worth $56 million with the IMF. The government has announced infrastructure projects that could yield improvements, such as a new oil pipeline for better fuel access, and the potential for a waterway link through Mozambican rivers to the ocean for better transportation options. Since 2009, however, Malawi has experienced some setbacks, including a general shortage of foreign exchange, which has damaged its ability to pay for imports, and fuel shortages that hinder transportation and productivity. Investment fell 23% in 2009, and continued to decline in 2010. The government has failed to address barriers to investment such as unreliable power, water shortages, poor telecommunications infrastructure, and the high costs of services. Donors, who provided an average of 36% of government revenue in the past five year, suspended general budget support for Malawi in 2011 due to a negative IMF review and governance issues.