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Pres. Obama seeks to grow Africa trade with leaders summit

4th August 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Burney Simpson
Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON (The North­Star News & Analysis) — Hundreds of African government and business leaders will convene in the nation’s capital this week for the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, a multi-day event organized by President Obama to build on the outreach that began during his trip to Africa last summer.

The White House announced that the summit is designed to grow investment and trade between the U.S. and the African continent. Obama has invited heads of state from more than 45 African countries, along with leaders from the African Union. The summit’s theme is “Investing in the Next Generation,” according to the U.S. State Department.

President Barack Obama last year with President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. Leaders of 45 African countries will meet in Washington, D.C., beginning August 4.

President Barack Obama last year with President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. Leaders of 45 African countries will meet in Washington, D.C., beginning August 4.


American trade with African has been growing but trails other regions of the world. China has aggressively expanded its business dealings on the Africa continent, reaching an estimated $200 billion in goods and services in 2013, according to a March story in The Christian Science Monitor. In comparison, Europe’s total trade with Africa tallied $137 billion in 2013, while U.S. trade with Africa grew to more than $96 billion.

African leaders at the summit will have the opportunity to mingle with the President and First Lady Michelle Obama, members of Obama’s cabinet, members of Congress, and business executives. Most members of Congress, however, will be out of town for the August recess.

Invited nations include Angola, Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville), Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa), Ethiopia, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Zambia. A full list of participating countries is available on the White House summit announcement.

The U.S. Africa Leaders Summit runs from August 4-6 and is organized around what the White House is calling six signature events – Faith Works; Civil Society Forum; Investing in Women, Peace and Prosperity; Investing in Health: Investing in Africa’s Future; Resilience and Food Security in a Changing Climate; and Combating Wildlife Tracking. On August 1 Faith Works will be the first official event of the Summit, bringing together officials from religious and faith-based organizations.

On August 4, the business aspect of the summit takes over with the remaining five signature events, along with more receptions and side events that will be held in various Washington power centers. That afternoon the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees will hold a welcoming reception.

On August 5, the U.S. Com­merce Department and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will co-host the U.S. Africa Business Forum, designed to strengthen economic ties between the U.S. and African countries. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in a press release that Africa presents a tremendous business opportunity.

“Africa is home to seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world, the middle class across the continent is expanding, and there is great potential for U.S. firms to sell their goods and services and leverage their expertise to help African countries meet their development goals,” Pritzker said.

That night the President and First Lady host a White House dinner.

On August 6, Michelle Obama and former First Lady Laura Bush host a day-long symposium at the Kennedy Center. And the Congressional Black Caucus holds “A Dialogue with African CEOs,” that offers more panel discussions and networking opportunities.

One side event will be devoted to the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), a group launched by Obama in 2010 to promote leadership and networking among promising African business and government leaders. Plans call for a Washington (D.C.) Fellowship to bring more than 500 YALI members to the city this year.

Last summer, the President and First Lady visited Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania over six days.

This article originally published in the August 4, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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