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Obama to meet African leaders Thursday

Malawi's President Joyce Banda speaks on August 30, 2012 at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre
Malawi's President Joyce Banda speaks on August 30, 2012 at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre. President Barack Obama will Thursday meet leaders from four sub-Saharan African nations, including Banda, to stress the need to develop democratic institutions on a co

President Barack Obama will Thursday meet leaders from four sub-Saharan African nations to stress the need to develop democratic institutions on a continent scarred by poverty and unrest.

Obama will welcome leaders from Sierra Leone, Senegal, Malawi and Cape Verde to the White House highlight their economic and democratic strides in line with his administration's new strategy for Africa laid out last year.

"This visit is an opportunity to underscore our support for sub-Saharan Africa and for democracy," said Caitlin Hayden, National Security Council spokeswoman.

"The President is inviting these leaders here because they represent a side of Africa that is too often overlooked: nations that are making impressive progress, and can serve as a positive model for democratic development across the region."

Hayden said the group would discuss how the United States could help develop democratic institutions in Africa, and promote economic growth, trade and investment.

Leaders in the meeting include President Ernest Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Joyce Banda of Malawi and Prime Minister Jose Maria Neves of Cape Verde.

The African leaders started the day at the Pentagon, where Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel greeted Banda, Koroma and Neves at an honor cordon before escorting them inside for talks.

A US official said that Sall could not take part in the Pentagon ceremony due to a flight delay.

Obama hosted a similar meeting in 2011 with leaders of Benin, Guinea, Niger, and Ivory Coast.

The US president released a new Africa strategy last June, declaring a continent torn by poverty, corruption and discord could be the world's next big economic success story.

The blueprint seeks to boost trade, strengthen peace, security and good governance and bolster democratic institutions, and is designed to help Africa's increasingly youthful population lead its own development.

Washington, tooling a regional policy towards trade and development, also views Africa's intractable conflicts with concern, including areas vulnerable to extremists such as in Somalia and Mali.

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