President Obama has called Africa “the world's next great economic success story.” According to the African Development Bank, Africa maintained an average GDP growth rate of 3.9 percent in 2013, exceeding the 3 percent rate for the global economy. U.S. exports to the continent of Africa have grown 39 percent since 2009, reaching $50.2 billion in 2013. The brightest spot has been U.S. merchandise exports to sub-Saharan Africa, which have increased 58 percent since 2009.
Building on this progress, the Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies are co-hosting the U.S. Africa Business Forum on August 5, a day focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent. Part of the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit taking place August 4-6, the Forum is part of the Administration’s efforts to explore Africa’s huge economic potential:
- U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa: In 2012, President Obama announced the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, a comprehensive policy strategy to address the opportunities and challenges in Africa in a forward-looking way. The Strategy focuses on strengthening democratic institutions; spurring economic growth, trade, and investment; advancing peace and security; and promoting opportunity and development.
- Doing Business in Africa: As part of the Strategy, the Department of Commerce launched the Doing Business in Africa Campaign, which has helped U.S. businesses take advantage of the many export and investment opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa. As part of the campaign, Commerce has expanded trade promotion programs tailored toward Africa and dedicated an online Africa business portal directing businesses to federal resources.
- Commercial Service expansion: To expand Commerce’s human resources footprint in Africa, Secretary Pritzker recently announced the opening of new U.S. Commercial Service offices across the continent. The U.S. Commercial Service helps U.S. businesses start exporting or increase sales to new global markets. By expanding its Commercial Service teams in Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, and Libya, and opening offices in Angola, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Mozambique for the first time, the Department of Commerce hopes to help U.S. businesses find their next customer abroad and create jobs in Africa.
- Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship: In order to promote entrepreneurship in the United States and around the world, President Obama launched the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative. Chaired by Secretary Pritzker, the PAGE initiative brings together 11 prominent American business leaders to mentor and develop the next generation of entrepreneurs around the world. In May, Secretary Pritzker and PAGE member Nina Vaca, CEO of Pinnacle Technical Resources, visited the Meltwater School of Technology in Ghana to encourage start-ups and to gain more insight into the Ghanaian entrepreneurial culture.
- Trade Africa: Trade Africa is a partnership between the United States and East African Community (EAC) – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. The initiative seeks to increase exports from the EAC to the United States by 40 percent, reduce the average time needed to import or export a container from African ports by 15 percent, and decrease by 30 percent the average time a truck takes to transit certain borders. By setting goals for efficiency and production, Trade Africa will increase the ease of doing business on both sides of the Atlantic.
- Power Africa: To address the lack of access to electricity in Africa, President Obama started Power Africa – an initiative designed to catalyze new financing and investment in energy solutions that will help African nations provide reliable electricity and power to their citizens. To pursue this commitment, the United States has committed $7 billion toward Power Africa and has secured additional private sector commitments worth $14 billion – and already, Power Africa has closed on transactions totaling nearly 3,000 megawatts, with an additional 5,000 megawatts in the planning stages. This partnership with Africa will unleash the growth and potential of every citizen, allowing Africa to continue to flourish – and expand its exporting relationship with the United States.
These efforts are designed to catalyze economic growth in Africa by improving infrastructure, connecting American and African businesses, encouraging exporting, and bringing basic necessities like electricity to millions of Africans.The U.S.-Africa Business Forum will build on these efforts to strengthen trade and investment ties across the Atlantic.