President Barack Obama announced more than $33 billion in initiatives and commitments to improving Africa’s economic growth and creating tens of thousands of jobs in the United States. He made this announcement at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum as part of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit on Tuesday afternoon.
“Our entire trade with all of Africa is still only about equal to our trade with Brazil - one country. Of all the goods we export to the world, only about one percent goes to sub-Saharan Africa. So, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” President Obama said.
The U.S. president highlighted the mobilization of $26 billion towards the Power Africa Initiative since its announcement. This is an initiative aimed at doubling access to power in sub-Saharan Africa. With this commitment, the U.S. is tripling its goal of bringing electricity to more than 60 million African homes. Amongst the Power Africa Initiative deals announced today is a $5 billion partnership between private-equity firm Blackstone and Nigerian business magnate Aliko Dangote for energy infrastructure projects in sub-Saharan Africa.
President Obama mentioned that through the Trade Africa Initiative, he and his administration are going to do more to help African countries improve regional trade with each other. This is because the best markets are usually the ones that are next door. Additionally, he announced $7 billion in new financing to promote U.S. investment in Africa and exports to the continent as part of the Doing Business in Africa Campaign.
Finally, he said the U.S. will do more to empower the next generation of African leaders particularly entrepreneurs through programs like the Mandela-Washington Fellowship which brought 500 young African leaders between the ages of 25-35 to the U.S. for a six-week leadership training. The fellowship ended last week.
The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit has brought together almost 50 African heads of states to the United States to speak about the U.S. administration’s trade and investment with Africa, and their commitment to the continent’s security among other things.
In a Q&A with Takunda Chingonzoh, a 21-year-old Zimbabwean entrepreneur, Obama said that the biggest thing that Africa is going to need to propel the potential and growth that is already taking place is laws and regulations and structures that empower individuals rather than control or empower those at the top. Additionally, governments can set the framework for markets to function properly because they are able to initiate projects like the building of costly infrastructure such as roads, bridges and airports. These will make it easy for businesses to achieve their goals.
Nonetheless, what drives innovation is not what is happening in government but, what is happening in companies, said Obama. “African entrepreneurs are going to be trendsetters for determining how societies think about themselves and governments too.”