Increasing United States investment opportunities in Africa could help the economy create more jobs for Americans, according to U.S. officials.
“Our economic and commercial partnership is a two way street,” Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, told African leaders at the U.S.-Africa Summit. “Goods and services exports from the U.S. to African markets support roughly 250,000 jobs here at home.”
Pritzer announced several new initiatives that will begin to strengthen the business relationships with the U.S. and Africa, including 10 new trade missions to Africa and 10 reverse trade missions to the U.S. by 2020.
She also said the Commerce Department created “a one stop shop web portal,” trade.gov/dbia to assist U.S. industry engagement in Africa. The fiscal portal enables American businesses to learn about African markets, find financing tools, and discover potential projects, contacts, and resources.
Ashish J. Thakkar, founder and managing director of Mara Group, a pan-African multi-sector business headquartered in Dubai, introduced a panel on “Expanding Opportunities: The New Era For Business In Africa.” The panel was part of the Africa Business Forum of the summit. Panelists discussed the future of U.S.-African partnerships and identified ways in which both countries could strengthen business ties and enable greater economic progress, such as investing in education, energy and infrastructure.
The panel, moderated by former President Bill Clinton, included Aliko Dangote, president and CEO of Dangote Group; Jeff Immelt, CEO at General Electric; Andrew N. Liveris, president, chairman & CEO at The Dow Chemical Company, Phuti Mahanyele, CEO at Shanduka Group; and Doug McMillon, president and CEO, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
According to Bloomberg L.P., the host for the forum, foreign investment in African economies will reach a record $80 billion in 2014 with many U.S. companies leading the way, such as IBM. However, there are significant business and financial opportunities that remain untapped, Bloomberg said.
When asked what could U.S. businesses could do to accelerate the process of investing in Africa, Immelt replied, “The number one thing is get local.” He said there needs to be local flexibility risk-based financing along with regional integration in Africa, such as an East African alliance.
Mahanyele said investment in the youth of Africa was a huge contribution to helping the advancement of U.S.-Africa investment.
“The key issue is making sure youth are educated to continue the growth of our continent,” she said.
Agreeing that a way to spur greater economic investment in Africa through education young people, Liveris said American companies could bring supply chains and training that would be a generational move.
He said Africa can move faster than other countries, in economic development, if American companies focused on working with African schools.
“I think the U.S.-Africa summit is history in the making,” Thakkar said. “Instead of bringing silicon valley to Africa, let’s bring Africa to silicon valley.”