ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- America's top diplomat said Saturday the U.S. is ready to help increase its ties with Africa, but nations across the continent need to take stronger steps to ensure security and democracy for its people.

In an Africa policy address to members of the Addis Ababa diplomatic corps and the Young Africa leader network, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted crises in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic and urged Africans to demand stability and financial development.

He called for an expansion of American investment in Africa and noted that U.S. companies IBM, Microsoft and Google already have spent more than $100 million on projects across the continent.

"So this is clearly a moment of opportunity for all Africans," Kerry told about 100 Ethiopians at an environmentally-friendly auditorium on a mountaintop. "It is also a moment of decision."

The Obama administration has sought to expand U.S. private investments in Africa, and last year financed about $1 billion to support American businesses across the continent, including an estimated $650 million in sub-Saharan Africa.

Elizabeth Littlefield, president and CEO of the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp., described Africa as the world's next front for development, largely in part because of a huge rise in the continent's middle class. She said the number of African households with disposable income will double over the next decade.


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Africa has the natural resources, capacity and the know-how for economic development, Kerry said, adding that the U.S. is the continent's "natural partner."