By Kevin Cirilli - 08/04/14 12:23 PM EDT
Secretary of State John Kerry kicked off the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit on Monday, declaring that "this is a moment of amazing opportunity for Africa."
"Africa has the resources, and the resources are not defined by oil and gold and what's in the ground," Kerry said during his Washington speech.
"The resources are the people, the know-how, the capacity, the desire and if that is harnessed properly there is no limit to the rapidity with which growth can take over in Africa and a different set of possibilities and opportunities will be known," he added.
More than 50 African leaders, top U.S. officials and dozens of CEOs of international companies are attending the three-day conference in Washington, the first of its kind in America.
On Tuesday, President Obama and former President Clinton are scheduled to speak at the U.S.-Africa Business Summit, where they'll be joined by dozens of African leaders.
"This is a moment of amazing opportunity for Africa. ... This is not something that is over the horizon. This is here now," Kerry said.
He urged African leaders to adopt democratic systems of government with free and fair elections, though he noted that "democracy is hard work."
"Trust is the heart of governance and that trust begins and ends with a strong, and vibrant and inclusive, independent civil society," Kerry said.
"In the end, our most enduring relationships — our most consequential relationships — are not with one particular government at one moment in time. It's not with those who are in power in the short run, legacy is really shaped by the people of the country, the people of the continent, the people of Africa who stand on principle for the long haul and who are increasingly connected to the world around them," Kerry added.