Washington – US President Barack Obama has announced a massive 33 billion US dollars in new financing to promote US exports to and investment in Africa.
He made the announcement at the first US-Africa Business Forum, in Washington, on Tuesday, ahead of today’s summit with a group of more than 40 African leaders.
The White House has broken down the figure as follows: 7 billion US dollars in new financing to promote US exports to and investments in Africa under the Doing Business in Africa Campaign (DBIA). US companies will also sign deals in clean energy, aviation, banking, and construction worth more than 14 billion US dollars in addition to 12 billion in new commitments under the President’s Power Africa initiative from private sector partners, the World Bank, and the government of Sweden.
“We all know what makes Africa such an extraordinary opportunity – some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, a growing middle class and expanding sectors like manufacturing and retail. One of the fastest-growing telecommunications markets in the world,” Obama told a hall packed by top business executives from across America and Africa.
“More governments are reforming, attracting a record level of foreign investment. It is the youngest and fastest-growing continent, with young people that are full of dreams and ambition,” he said.
The DBIA Campaign encourages US commercial engagement in Africa by harnessing the resources of the US government to assist businesses in identifying and seizing opportunities and to engage with members of the African Diaspora in the US.
On Tuesday, Obama also signed an Executive Order (E.O.) to promote broad-based economic growth in the US and in Africa by encouraging US companies to trade with and invest in Africa.
The White House said the E.O. directs the Secretary of Commerce to establish a President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa that will be comprised of not more than 15 members from the private sector, including small business.
“The Advisory Council will provide information, analysis, and recommendations to the President, through the Secretary of Commerce, including on developing strategies for creating jobs in the US and Africa through trade and investment; developing strategies by which the US private sector can identify and take advantage of trade and investment opportunities in Africa; and building lasting commercial partnerships between the US and African private sectors.”
US a partner in Africa’s success
Obama recalled his trip to South Africa, last year, where he addressed a town hall with young men and women from across the continent, including some who joined via video from Uganda.
“One young Ugandan woman spoke for many Africans when she said to me: ‘We are looking to the world for equal business partners and commitments, and not necessarily aid. We want to do [business] at home and be the ones to own our own markets’.
“That’s a sentiment we hear over and over again. When I was traveling throughout Africa last year, what I heard was the desire of Africans not just for aid, but for trade and development that actually helps nations grow and empowers Africans for the long term,” said Obama.
He said the United States was determined to be “a partner in Africa’s success”.
“We don’t look to Africa simply for its natural resources; we recognize Africa for its greatest resource, which is its people and its talents and their potential. We don’t simply want to extract minerals from the ground for our growth…”
Obama said the US would do more to help Africans trade with each other “because the markets with the greatest potential are often the countries right next door”.
“It should not be harder for African countries to export goods to neighbours than it is to export those goods to Los Angeles or to Amsterdam.
“So through our Trade Africa initiative, we’ll increase our investments to help our African partners build their own capacity to trade, to strengthen regional markets, make borders more efficient, modernize the customs system. We want to get African goods moving faster within Africa, as well as outside of Africa.” Obama said.
Further trade agreements are expected to be announced today when Obama holds a press conference at the end of the summit.