US President Barack Obama on Tuesday pledged that American companies will invest up to Shs36 trillion ($14b) in Africa in areas such as infrastructure and energy.
Mr Obama, addressing over 40 African heads of state at the US-Africa Summit in Washington, said the US does not look to Africa “simply for natural resources” but is determined to be a partner in Africa’s success.
“..We recognize Africa for its greatest resource which is its people; their talents and their potential,” The US President said at the summit, aimed at reinforcing US ties with Africa amidst growing China influence.
Africa doesn’t need aid
President Obama recalling meetings during his recent African tour and engagements with young African leaders, said he had been told of the African’s desire for trade and development, and not necessarily aid which will empower the young population on the continent in the long term.
"Last year in South Africa, in Soweto, I held a town hall meeting with young men and women from across the continent, including some who joined us by video from Uganda. And one young Ugandan woman spoke for many Africans when she said to me, ‘We are looking to the world for equal business partners and commitments, and not necessarily aid. We want to do business at home and be the ones to own our own markets.”
This, Mr Obama noted, is the widely held sentiment on the continent that must be fulfilled.
Mr Obama further explained that his administration will do more to boost intra-African trade, noting that the key to unlocking the next era of African growth is not in the United States; “it’s gonna be in Africa”.
“We will do more to help Africans trade with each other because the markets with the greatest potential are often the countries right next door. It should not be harder to get to export your goods to your neighbour than it is to export those goods to Los Angeles.
“Through our Trade African Initiative, we will increase our investments to help our African partners to build their own capacity to trade, strengthen regional markets, make borders more efficient, modernise the customs system. We want to get African goods moving faster within Africa as well as outside of Africa, said Mr Obama during the live broadcast.
Currently, much of the trade between the US and Africa is with three countries; South Africa, Nigeria and Angola and this leans heavily towards the energy sector.
On security and peace, Mr Obama said: “The future belongs to those who build, not those who destroy. It is very hard to attract businesses, investment, build infrastructure, and it is very hard to stay in entrepreneurship in the midst of conflict.”
However, Senegalese President Mr Macky Sall said the perception of the business, global, and political world on African democracy and governance is wrong.
"What you see in the media in one or two countries is not what is going on in the rest of continent" Mr Sall said.
“Africa has 54 countries. They are all trying on a day–to–day basis to build lasting democracies. We are organizing elections. That is the rule today in Africa,” he added.
In addition to that, Tanzania’s President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete said Africa is more secure today that it was many years back.
President Obama announced an additional $12billion (Shs31t) in new commitments to Africa through private sector partners and the World Bank. Together with the Swedish government he said they had mobilised more than $26billion (Shs67t) to boost electricity access on the continent.