Kicking off the first-ever three-day U.S.-Africa Summit at the State Department and White House, President Barack Obama welcomed leaders from across the African continent saying, “I do not see the countries and peoples of Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world – partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children.”
In an effort to strengthen America’s financial foothold in Africa, President Obama announced $33 billion in commitments aimed at shifting U.S. ties with Africa toward more equal economic partnerships. “We’ve got to do better, much better,” he said. “I want Africans buying more American products and I want Americans buying more African products.”
Obama has sought to cast the U.S. as a better partner for African nations than China, arguing that his administration has a long-term interest in the continent’s success and is not simply seeking to extract resources for its own purposes. “The United States is determined to be a partner in Africa’s success,” he said. “We don’t look to Africa simply for its natural resources. We recognize Africa for its greatest resource, which is its people, their talents and their potential.”
The U.S. is hardly alone in seeing economic potential in Africa, with China, Europe and India moving aggressively to tap into Africa’s growing markets. China in particular is hungry for oil, coal and other resources and is eager to develop the roads, bridges and ports needed to pull them out of Africa.
China surpassed the U.S. as Africa’s largest trade partner right around the time of the financial crisis, and trade between China and Africa has increased ever since. On the other hand, trade between Africa and the U.S. has stagnated.
“We realize we have some catching up to do,” said Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor and billionaire businessman. “We are letting Europe and China go faster than the U.S.”
More and more firms are going to Africa to seek out economic opportunities that benefit themselves. Along the way, they will build infrastructure and provide much-needed jobs that will benefit African societies and enable African nations to move up the economic ladder to become the new BRIC markets.
Rani Jarkas, the Chairman of Cedrus Investments.
Rani Jarkas is a highly experienced financial services executive, with over 20 years of international banking experience. Currently, Mr. Jarkas is the Chairman of Cedrus Investments, a global boutique investment firm. Cedrus’ domain expertise is in life sciences, natural resources, energy, cleantech and nanotechnology. – Rani Jarkas