HomeAfricaU.S. Imperialism Pursues Its Economic Agenda In Africa Through Washington Summit

U.S. Imperialism Pursues Its Economic Agenda In Africa Through Washington Summit

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If I can just flag a few things that I think may be of interest to many of you covering this that stand out I think in ways consistent with the kind of broad principles that Ben laid out. On the Monday when there will be a great focus on development, the changes we have seen in Africa on development are quite phenomenal — a real shift from a dependence on assistance to the investment of their own dollars. Some of the greatest gains we’ve seen on the planet in HIV and AIDS, maternal and child health, agricultural development are in Africa.

Food security, which Ben mentioned — President Obama called for a worldwide food security initiative in February of 2009, very shortly after coming into office, at a time when worldwide investments in agricultural development were down very, very, very sharply and where the world was spending much more on relief than agricultural development. We were able to build those initiatives to Feed the Future and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition based on what Africa has done.

African leaders agreed some years ago to increase their investments in agriculture, that every country should have a plan. They have since, in the last couple of months, committed themselves to tripling agricultural trade, further reducing hunger. This is an area where we have been hugely successful but in large measure because we’ve got a huge number of leaders putting skin in the game.

We’ve also seen that with Power Africa, which launched only a year ago, which has gotten enormous traction. We will have some things to say about how far that has come and where it is going. So those are just a couple of things on the Monday.

On the Tuesday at the business forum, I think by virtue of the fact of who is in attendance, what kinds of things will be announced, and the general buzz around it, I think there is now a solid recognition that what we are talking about is a very fast-growing and dynamic emerging market where we have mutual interests in increasing U.S. investment. There will also be significantly there a number of prominent African CEOs. Among the business leaders in attendance, we will have a huge diversity of companies from very large and well-known companies to a lot of smaller companies. And, again, both American and international, but also significantly African corporate leaders.

So I think — I would say we’ll leave it at that, Ben, and turn it back to you. We’ve spoken a lot and maybe take your questions.

MR. RHODES: Yes, happy to take questions.

Hi there, thanks so much for doing this call. I wanted to begin by asking you about the competition for U.S. investment in Africa. There is a lot of it. As you mentioned, because there is this recognition that it’s such a (inaudible) emerging market — competition from China, Malaysia, Turkey and Europe. And Ambassador Rice said this week that the engagement with the U.S. is different because the U.S. doesn’t see the continent as a place to extract resources but a place of boundless opportunities. What I hear from African leaders and people who work in Africa is that they already know that. And I would ask you what message will you deliver to show that the U.S. approach to Africa has truly turned a corner, that you do value them as this equal partner, and how are you showing that during a summit without using bilateral meetings?

MR. RHODES: Thanks, Jessica. Let me just say a couple things. First of all, with respect to China, President Obama has made clear that we welcome other nations being invested in Africa, and, frankly, China can play a constructive role in areas like developing African infrastructure. At the same time, we do believe we bring something unique to the table. We are less focused on resources from Africa and more focused on deepening trade and investment relationships. And I think the way in which that will be demonstrated at the summit is if you look at the nature of our engagement — first of all, we are engaged across the U.S. government so that it is not simply the State Department, but the Commerce Department, the United States Trade Representative, OPEC and Ex-Im — all have very deep ties in Africa.

All of those principals have made recent trips to Africa or had recent meetings with African leaders to discuss what the United States can do to increase our trade and investment footprint on the continent. Our businesses will be represented at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum — are pursuing a much broader engagement on the continent. And they are seeking to deepen their own investments in Africa in ways that will I think create a broader prosperity on the continent, because they are putting resources into African economies in ways that support development and job creation in Africa, but also create new markets for American goods. And so there will be specific commercial deals that can be discussed, but also the broader climate around trade and investment.

And then there are some very specific things that we’re focused on. AGOA is one — as we seek a renewal of AGOA heading into next year. But also, we’ve sought to support the greater integration of trade within Africa. And it happens to be the case that in some cases it’s easier for African countries to export beyond Africa’s shores than to trade with their neighbors because of how their economies were set up. And so we’ve worked, for instance, with the East African community to facilitate greater trade across borders in East Africa so that you’re looking at issues like customs and you’re looking at ways for different countries to integrate their trade practices.

That will be good for them because they can create more integrated economic arrangements, but it will also be good for us because that will then make it easier for us to harmonize our trade and investment across different parts of the African continent.

So when you look at this agenda, it’s really about how do we use the remarkable growth in parts of Africa to go to the next level, so that investment is flowing into Africa, jobs are being created, new markets are being grown, there’s integration on the continent, and there’s deeper trade with the United States. And again, we, uniquely as a country in the global economy, bring all those different assets to bear — not just dollars, but business partnership, trade expertise, and an interconnection to the global economy.

I don’t know, Gayle, if you want to add anything to that.

MS. SMITH: I think just one example I would point to is Power Africa, because one of the challenges in Africa that we found in the energy sector and that our partners have talked to us about is you’ve got a huge number of potential projects, you’ve got a lot of capital that is looking for a place to invest, and how do you bring those two things together.

Through Power Africa, what we have been able to do is provide a menu of things that can render those projects bankable. So we’re working with governments to improve their regulatory environment, or provide risk insurance to companies that want to go in but there is still a high perception of risk.

So at the same time, we are bringing capital to investments in power and energy, including U.S. capital, but we’re also building the capacity of these countries to grow economies that are sustainable and deliver. And I think that’s one of the big shifts. We’re interested in the investment, but we’re also interested in building the capacity, even as we move more closely into this emerging market.

Q Do you have a count now on how many countries will be participating in the official events? And for those countries whose Presidents cannot attend, what level of representation is allowed, I guess is the question –- vice president, ministerial — for the dinner and for the Wednesday session, Presidents at the State Department?

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