This year marks 50 years of independence for 17 sub-Saharan African countries and, partly to honor this milestone, President Obama is hosting a three-day forum in Washington, D.C. with approximately 120 "young African leaders." The event kicks off today and ends Thursday. The attendees were nominated by local U.S. embassies and represent more than 40 countries in sub-Sahara Africa. The President will hold a town hall meeting with the forum's participants. According to a statement from the White House, the forum will also include "small-group discussions on topics such as transparency and accountability, job creation and entrepreneurship, rights advocacy, and the use of technology to empower individuals and communities." Emira Woods, the co-director for Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies believes the forum, to some extent, is a useful gesture but is concerned that the agenda seems haphazard. Woods says Africa's relationship with the U.S. "is now at the stage [where we need to] look beyond gestures and photo ops."

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