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SA cautious ahead of US-Africa Summit
August 4, 2014, 4:34 pm

South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana- Mashabane has said South Africa's exit from AGOA would hinder African growth [GCIS]

South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana- Mashabane has said South Africa’s exit from AGOA would hinder African growth [GCIS]

As US President Barack Obama gears up to host the 1st US-Africa summit, South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana- Mashabane said on Monday the country is on a “wait and watch” mode.

“This is their own initiative, they started it and we have not looked down upon the invitation,” Nkoana-Mashabane told the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

South African President Jacob Zuma along with Mashabane are in Washington for the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit, scheduled for August 4-6. On Monday morning, Zuma will attend a breakfast briefing where he will deliver the keynote address to the US Chamber of Commerce’s Africa Business Initiative.

“We came, we’ll air our views in the most constructive manner so that which is a good initiative also knows that in 2014 it is going to be that…,” she said.

The renewal of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is expected to be the top focus at the Summit.

South Africa is lobbying for the renewal of the AGOA, which it said is a central plank in both South Africa and Africa’s industrialisation strategies.

“We’d be much happier if we hear engagement that positively moves towards the renewal of AGOA, that African heads of state get listened to on how we resolve African challenges of peace and security supported by friendly nations,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.

During his visit to Africa last year, US President Barack Obama promised to extend the AGOA which he said represents good business for both Africa and America.

The AGOA is a preferential market access system given to specific countries in Africa and the Caribbean by the United States. The act allows Southern African countries to ship key products to the US duty free. The AGOA is set to expire in 2015, and most African countries are keen to see it renewed for a period of 10-15 years.

There have been calls, however, for South Africa to quit the AGOA owing to its dominant position as a middle-income nation.

“South Africa’s graduation from AGOA would serve to undermine not only our domestic efforts at re-basing our economy to become a manufacturing and export hub in the sub-region, but also impede Africa’s broader regional integration strategies aimed at stimulating inter-Africa trade,” the South African Foreign Minister said in a statement earlier.

At the Summit, South Africa will also push for the establishment of the US-Africa Infrastructure Development Fund of $100 Billion with a 50/50 contribution from Africa and the US.

The US has tried to counter the growing influence of China in the African continent even as the total volume of China-Africa trade reached $198.49 billion in 2012, with a year-on-year growth of 19.3 per cent, according to official statistics.

In June last year Obama said he welcomes competition from other nations who have been aggressive in pursuing commercial opportunities in Africa, including China.

“Our only advice is make sure it’s a good deal for Africa.”

With South Africa’s ascension in BRICS, President Zuma has been vocal in his criticism of the way he alleged former Western colonial powers did business with Africa.

Meanwhile, BRICS are the new partners of the African continent, Zuma asserted earlier this year.

Critics of Chinese investment in Africa have said the Asian giant harbours neo-colonial intentions. Zuma refuted such allegations.

“We welcome foreign direct investment (FDI), we are not discriminating…We’ve taken money from Germany, the U.K. the United States – why was it not a story, why is it a story when the Chinese do so?” Zuma said in February this year.

“The countries that have been dealing with us before, particularly old economies, they’ve dealt with us as former subjects, as former colonial subjects,” Zuma said.

“The Chinese don’t deal with us from that point of view. They deal with us as people that you must do business (with), at an equal level so to speak. It’s not the Chinese only, there are many other countries,” Zuma said. “China has come to do business, not to try to tell you what to do, what not to do. Others do.”

“Part of the reason Africa, as much as it (was) decolonized many years ago, has never developed is because the relationships are not equal,” Zuma said.

Pretoria has also tended to align its international diplomacy with that of Russia and China, the two permanent UN Security Council members.


 TBP and Agencies 

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