Vice President Biden urged African leaders to do more to fight the "cancer of corruption" during a speech Monday at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington.
"It is the cancer," Biden warned. "It takes away any credibility of democracy.
Biden said that corruption “prevents the establishment of a genuine democratic system. It stifles economic growth and scares away investment."
About 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.
Business and political leaders see the summit as a valuable opportunity to boost trade and development links between the U.S. and Africa.
Earlier Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the summit and also urged African nations to adopt transparent democratic practices. Biden made a similar case.
"Civil society is the lifeblood of democracy," Biden said. "This is not hyperbole, but no democracy can survive without the active and intense participation and its people.
"You the leaders of civil society — you empower your societies to succeed," he continued. "You are the lifeblood."
The vice president urged African leaders to be more inclusive and to help develop opportunities for women.
"Draw on the talents of all of your people, including women and girls," Biden said, drawing applause from the audience.
He said that building thriving democracies was a constant struggle.
"Democracy has taken root and now it's trying to grow," said Biden. "It's trying to flourish in places where it's very difficult but as it does, there are forces rising up in countries trying to stop it."