In the course of the three-day Washington summit, which is now drawing to a close, the U.S. president announced an investment of $33 billion on the part of the private sector and the U.S. government. The three-day summit consisted of 50 African leaders and discussions on business, cooperation and development, with the aim of fostering strong economic links with one of the planet’s fastest emerging regions at a time when China is in hot pursuit. In the course of the Washington mega-summit, which ended today, the United States announced a plan for the investment of $33 billion ($14 billion of which will come from private businesses) in the construction, clean energy, bank services and technological sectors. On the final day, questions of regional security, investment in Africa, but also issues of terrorism and religious extremism, dominated the discussions. The first day was dedicated to questions of democracy and human rights. Then, with the shadow of the Ebola virus looming large, the summit turned its focus to commitments made by the U.S. president one year earlier during his journey to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, where he argued that Africa is the continent of the future. Details and the names of those companies that are to invest in the continent have not yet been released, but some 70 of the largest American enterprises took part in the summit, including Chevron, Citigroup, Ford, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Marriott International, Morgan Stanley and Walmart. What do these companies have in common? They all hope that their investment will guarantee future business with the continent that currently has the world’s fastest growth rate (predicted at 5.8 percent for 2015, according to IMF predictions). “These agreements represent conclusive evidence that America is open for more business with Africa as the continent’s economic ascent is just beginning,” said Penny Pritzker, the U.S. secretary of commerce. “Each day, 250,000 Americans go to work in jobs supported by exports to Africa and their deals will lead to increased prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic in months ahead,” she added. In his interview, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew highlighted the need to drive more U.S. investment in Africa, increase trade between Africa and the United States, and spur job creation. Africa attracted some $50 billion of capital flow in 2012. According to Lew, however, to expand growth and attract greater investment, Africa will need to develop more open, secure and competitive capital markets. This [need] will mean pursuing further economic and governance reforms and building a more welcoming and predictable investment climate for future investment. Many human rights organizations have criticized the White House for having invited to the summit certain African leaders who are currently the subject of heated discussions with regard to human rights (although leaders from Sudan, Eritrea, the Central African Republic and Zimbabwe were not called to attend). The Obama administration was nevertheless keen to immediately clarify the situation through two inaugural speeches from Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry. These speeches swiftly turned into a clear rebuke of certain current leaders. “No democracy can thrive without an informed citizenry and active civil society,” affirmed Biden. The late South African leader Nelson Mandela was cited several times by the head of U.S. diplomacy as a testament to the need for a “strong civil society and respect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights,” as “universal values.” Hence, the objective of limiting heads of state and heads of government to a maximum of two constitutionally mandated terms received a warm welcome. It is an objective that the majority of the African population supports and one that would help limit corruption and subsequent autocracies.
Posted on: Wed, 20 Aug 2014 19:50:01 +0000
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