US Officials on Wednesday finally unveiled the much anticipated details of the Africa Strategy in the southern Africa nation of Mozambique, urging hundreds of African business leaders at the US-AFRICA Summit to bolster partnerships and trade with American companies.
U.S. firms deliver “unrivaled value,” Deputy Secretary of Commerce Karen Dunn Kelley told the crowd. “Yet we have lost ground to the increasingly-sophisticated — but too often opaque — business practices of foreign competitors.”
Karen disclosed that the Trump administration aims to "Prosper Africa" - a new initiative that shifts American focus on the continent from aid to strengthening industrial growth.
The $50 million program will offer technical help to companies looking to enter or grow in Africa, which is urbanizing more rapidly than anywhere else on Earth . The region is projected to have 1.52 billion consumers by 2025 — nearly five times the size of the U.S. population.
Kelley said: U.S. exports to Africa have dropped by nearly a third since their 2014 high. She lamented that the decline was caused largely by alternatives, saying American investors are missing out.
The administration seeks to reverse that trend by searching for business opportunities, trying to reduce trade barriers, connecting firms to financing and guiding them through bureaucracy, among other commerce-boosting tactics, she said.
Kelley highlighted one example of success: Texas energy company Anadarko Petroleum Corp. gave the greenlight Tuesday to start construction of a $20 billion gas liquefaction and export terminal in Mozambique — the biggest such project ever approved in Africa.
Meanwhile, the United States International Development Finance Corporation, a government agency launching in October following a bipartisan congressional push , will double the amount of money available for American investment in low-income countries, including some in Africa.
“We know that the U.S. government can and must do more to capitalize on the competitive advantage of U.S. companies,” Kelley said, “and the entrepreneurial spirit of the African people.”
Trump’s Africa policy is coming six months after the US national security adviser John Bolton announced the administration was switching gears on the continent — with an emphasis on countering the rising influence of China and Russia.
The “predatory practices” of those rivals threaten the financial independence of African nations by strapping them with debt, he said in December — and squash opportunities for America to expand its economic footprint.
“They are deliberately and aggressively targeting their investments in the region to gain a competitive advantage over the United States,” Bolton said in a speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, where he mentioned China 14 times.
The condemnation received mixed reviews in Africa, where China is generally popular as the continent’s biggest trading partner and Russia is making aggressive inroads.
Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to meet with 50 African leaders on his home turf in Sochi at the first Russian-African Summit. The meeting is meant to bolster “Russia’s active presence in the region,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last year .
And Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $60 billion last September in financial aid to Africa. China will forgive debt in poorer nations, he added as Beijing hosted dozens of African dignitaries. The sky was uncharacteristically blue that week because air-polluting factories had shut down for the summit.
Xi has also visited the continent multiple times. He arrived in the West African nation of Senegal last year, for example, to hand Senegalese President Macky Sall the keys to a new $52 million wrestling stadium , courtesy of China. (Wrestling is huge in Senegal.)
“Say what you want about what the Chinese are doing in Africa, but their leaders do make the effort to go there and build personal relationships,” said Eric Olander, managing editor of the China Africa Project, a news site in Shanghai.
U.S. diplomacy is less flashy. American efforts tend to unfold behind the scenes: training military forces, helping cities rebuild after devastating floods, distributing fertilizer to farmers, helping regions get rid of disease-spreading flies.
Header Image Credit: clubofMozambique.com