Obama announces $33bn in commitments for Africa

Washington - President Barack Obama announced $33bn in commitments on Tuesday aimed at shifting US ties with Africa beyond humanitarian aid and toward more equal economic partnerships.

The bulk of the commitments came from private-sector companies, including Coca-Cola and General Electric, underscoring Africa's growing appeal to businesses. The continent is home to six of the world's fastest-growing economies and a rapidly expanding middle class with increased spending power.

Yet Obama noted that US trade with the entire African continent is about the same as its trade ties with Brazil and that just about one percent of US exports go to sub-Saharan Africa.

"We've got to do better, much better," he said during closing remarks at a daylong session that brought together US and African politicians and business leaders. "I want Africans buying more American products and I want Americans buying more African products."

The US 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.

"We also realize we have some catching up to do," said Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor and billionaire businessman who opened the summit Tuesday. "We are letting Europe and China go faster than the US."

‘Barely scratched the surface’

Obama has sought to cast the US 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 recognise Africa for its greatest resource, which is its people, their talents and their potential."

The business forum is part of an unprecedented three-day summit underway in Washington, with nearly 50 African heads of state in attendance. Obama was hosting the leaders at a White House dinner Tuesday night.

About 100 US companies were represented at Tuesday's conference. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry also addressed the attendees, as did former President Bill Clinton, who declared that the US has "only barely scratched the surface" of Africa's economic potential.

In conjunction with the meeting, US companies announced $14bn in investments for Africa. Among them: a $5bn investment from Coca-Cola to fund manufacturing lines and production equipment; $2bn investment from GE by 2018; $200m in investments across Africa by Marriott, and a $66m commitment by IBM to provide technology services to Ghana's Fidelity Bank.

The White House also touted another $12bn in new commitments for Obama's Power Africa initiative from the private sector, World Bank and the government of Sweden. Obama announced the Power Africa initiative last summer, setting a goal of expanding electricity access to at least 20 million new households and commercial entities.

The president said that with the new financial commitments, he was boosting that goal to 60 million homes and businesses.

Obama also announced $7bn in new government financing to promote US exports to and investments in Africa. That includes $3bn in financing from the US Export-Import Bank aimed at supporting American exports to Africa over the next two years.

The US Export-Import Bank is at the centre of a political controversy in Washington, with some Republicans seeking to shutter the bank and threatening to block its reauthorisation when Congress returns from recess this fall.

The Republican lawmakers seeking to shut down the bank argue that its spending is politically motivated and unnecessary.

GE chief executive Jeff Immelt, who was among the business leaders participating in Tuesday's summit, appealed to Congress to renew the bank's charter, saying its existence signals to other countries that the US government believes in investing overseas.

"The fact that we have to sit here and argue for it is just wrong," Immelt said.

Obama also signed an executive order on Tuesday creating an advisory committee comprised of private sector representatives who will advise the White House on ways to boost economies ties with Africa.

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Mr T. 2014/08/06 06:09:52 AM
That's 348bn, a quarterly of revenue collection in SA.
Victor Ndabenhle Mkhaliphi 2014/08/06 06:25:16 AM
I love the humanitarian work done by the American people in Africa. This trade and investment commitment will compliment that work, fantastic.
Victor Ndabenhle Mkhaliphi 2014/08/06 06:26:07 AM
I love the humanitarian work done by the American people in Africa. This trade and investment commitment will compliment that work, fantastic.
Bradly Minnaar 2014/08/06 06:28:44 AM
Make sure it gets to the right hands....make sure zuma is at home or something when you give the money over.
Johan Steyn265 2014/08/06 06:53:09 AM
Yes and some black politician will piss it out on coruption we will see how the US feels about that?
Victor Fedrick 2014/08/06 06:53:28 AM
Hope the money will not help to acquire more presidential jets and luxury apartment for african leaders.
Bruwer 2014/08/06 07:10:36 AM
Nice when you can just print money
Jimmy Mashabela 2014/08/06 07:23:10 AM
Amazing how some people can be so jealous when the continent they live in attracts more investments from other continents. Or may be it's because these people are just the visitors in Africa? Or may be because Africa is for Blacks? We must know that America need Africa as much as Africa need them.
Kelly O'Neill 2014/08/06 07:23:11 AM
America, what about your own countries debt? In trillions by now I believe!
Neliswa Mlondolozi 2014/08/06 07:37:32 AM
It does not metter how many but south africans know who the want, we just don't want chasing any more, partnering is better Mr Obama.