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Obama looks for ‘partnership’ with Africa
August 6, 2014, 6:02 am

"We don't look to Africa simply for its natural resources; we recognize Africa for its greatest resource, which is its people and its talents and their potential," Obama told visiting African delegations [Xinhua]

“We don’t look to Africa simply for its natural resources; we recognize Africa for its greatest resource, which is its people and its talents and their potential,” Obama told visiting African delegations [Xinhua]


US President Barack Obama has pledged to increase America’s business and economic engagement with African nations but urged their leaders to do more to combat terrorism and enhance security.

He also called on his counterparts from 50 African nations – who on Monday inaugurated the first-ever US-Africa Summit – to do more to root out corruption, reform government and business regulations, increase transparency and accountability, and safeguard human rights.

He told the US-Africa Business Forum in Washington on Tuesday that the US is determined to be an equal, long-term partner which works toward development, investment and trade, and moves away from focusing on aid.

“We don’t look to Africa simply for its natural resources; we recognize Africa for its greatest resource, which is its people and its talents and their potential,” he said.

Robust economic growth in much of Africa has for several years impressed global analysts who see potential for many emerging markets from the continent.

In September, the African Economic Outlook (AEO) report said that Africa’s GDP grew at 4.8 per cent in 2013 and is predicted to round off 2014 at 5.3 per cent.

The report, Structural Transformation and Natural Resources, praised African economies for weathering global economic and political crises.

The most resilient economies appear to be in West Africa (6.7 and 7.4 per cent, respectively); the weakest appear to be in North Africa (3.9 per cent and 4.3 per cent, respectively).

Between 2001 and 2012, fortunes appear to have shifted for some of the traditionally more powerful countries.

Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Angola, for example, are among the 10 fastest African economies while Egypt, South Africa, and Algeria are listed in the 10 slowest-growing economies.

Although the figures may differ, the AEO report predicts overall good health and growth for the continent in line with International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank forecasts.

It is these emerging economies, with a rapidly growing middle class, that the US wants to tap for investment.

“Even as Africa continues to face enormous challenges, even as too many Africans still endure poverty and conflict, hunger and disease, even as we work together to meet those challenges, we cannot lose sight of the new Africa that’s emerging,” Obama said.

He added that there were $33 billion in public and private commitments to develop African infrastructure and power supply.

But the US President could have done more to bolster trade and open up US markets to African exports, says South African President Jacob Zuma.

Zuma and South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane are pressing Washington to renew a preferential market access system given to specific countries in Africa and the Caribbean by the United States.

The system, known as the African Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA), allows a number of African countries to export to the US without paying a duty.

AGOA, which will expire in 2015, is up for renewal in a Congressional vote.

African countries would like to see it renewed until 2030; there have been reports that there is lobbying to remove South Africa from the favored trade status list.

Zuma warns that this would be a mistake, citing that nearly 95 per cent of South African exports enter US markets through AGOA.

“AGOA has transformed the economic landscape for many African countries and South Africa. It is the cornerstone of trade relations between the US and sub-Saharan Africa,” Zuma told a US-South Africa Business Investment Forum organised by the US Chamber of Commerce on Monday.

During his tour of key African nations last year, Obama promised to extend the AGOA which he said represents good business for both Africa and America.

Source: Agencies

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