US-AFRICA LEAD­ERS SUM­MIT: AFRICAPITALISM AT FULL SPEED

China Daily (Canada) - - SPECIAL -

Af­ter re­peated calls to make Africa a pri­or­ity, many hoped that the 2014 US-Africa Lead­ers Sum­mit would bring the United States and the African con­ti­nent to­gether in an un­prece­dented part­ner­ship.

In­deed, the sum­mit turned the page on a post-cold war type of diplomacy which had been dom­i­nated by derog­a­tive aid and a pa­ter­nal­is­tic ap­proach. The sum­mit helped to usher the two con­ti­nents to­ward stronger eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion and also cre­ated a plat­form for a win-win, mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial part­ner­ship aimed at re­duc­ing se­cu­rity threats.

The of­fi­cial agenda was fo­cused on se­cu­rity, democ­racy and gov­er­nance. How­ever, for the first time, a trade and in­vest­ment- fo­cused theme dom­i­nated the week, with more than 60 an­cil­lary events fea­tur­ing African lead­ers who shared in­for­ma­tion on busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties in their re­spec­tive coun­tries.

As a re­sult of these con­ver­sa­tions, US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama an­nounced a $26 bil­lion com­mit­ment to power devel­op­ment on the African con­ti­nent to pro­vide elec­tric­ity to more than 60,000 Africans and en­trepreneurs and to lay the foun­da­tion for an African eco­nomic boom. A to­tal of $33 bil­lion was pledged and $14 bil­lion worth of pri­vate deals were cre­ated dur­ing the sum­mit.

These in­vest­ments are a far cry from China’s $200 bil­lion in­vest­ment in the African con­ti­nent in 2013 which is more than dou­ble that of the United States. In fact, US Am­bas­sador Linda Thomas-Green­field said that Africa presents enough op­por­tu­ni­ties to be seized by all play­ers. China and the US have two dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to in­vest­ing in Africa but they are com­ple­men­tary. Still, Africa’s bright fu­ture will not de­pend on the amount of in­vest­ments made; it will de­pend on which in­vest­ments have the abil­ity to cre­ate jobs on the con­ti­nent and se­cure long-term devel­op­ment.

African lead­ers came to Wash­ing­ton ac­com­pa­nied by more than 200 African ex­ec­u­tives. Mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial part­ner­ships are now the new mod­els of en­gage­ment such as the part­ner­ship be­tween Dan­gote In­dus­tries, as­set man­age­ment firm Black­stone and Black and Black Rhino, an African in­fra­struc­ture devel­op­ment com­pany, with a $5 bil­lion in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture devel­op­ment. Another part­ner­ship in­cludes Heirs Hold­ing, Sym­bion and Gen­eral Elec­tric. It’s a ven­ture that con­trib­uted to tripling the power ca­pa­bil­ity in Nige­ria from 150 megawatts to 453 megawatts in just six months. These suc­cess sto­ries were made pos­si­ble by the strong im­ple­men­ta­tion of lo­cal con­tent laws in Nige­ria which al­lows their pri­vate sec­tor to grow and due to im­proved power and in­vest­ment reg­u­la­tions.

Lead­ers called for the cre­ation of jobs on both sides of the At­lantic, in order to ad­dress the US em­ploy­ment chal­lenge and Africa’s se­cu­rity threat posed by 54 mil­lion new jobs that need to be cre­ated in Africa by 2020. This can be du­pli­cated in all sec­tors. This is Africapitalism at full speed.

Nev­er­the­less, Africa’s fu­ture still de­pends on Africans, not on China, the Euro­pean Union or even the United States. While speak­ing at the Be­lieve in Africa Day High-Level Di­a­logue or­ga­nized by African di­as­pora lead­ers, Pres­i­dent of the African Devel­op­ment Bank M. Don­ald Kaberuka said: “A coun­try that re­lies on oth­ers to fi­nance devel­op­ment is or­dained to fail.”

African lead­ers had ex­pected to par­tic­i­pate in the usual bi­lat­eral talks that they have at­tended sum­mits held in France, the Euro­pean Union and China. How­ever, the lack of such talks did not un­der­mine the out­come of the USAfrica Lead­ers Sum­mit. Their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the sum­mit sent a clear mes­sage to the rest of the world that Africa is ready to en­ter the big leagues and that the US sum­mit was not just held to com­pete with the ones held by the Chi­nese or French. It is rather a loud procla­ma­tion of the strate­gic and eco­nomic im­por­tance the con­ti­nent holds as stated in a res­o­lu­tion in­tro­duced by US Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gre­gory Meeks in the US Congress.

Nonethe­less, the US still needs to con­tend with China, Europe and other emerg­ing economies, in­clud­ing In­dia and Turkey. The in­crease of pos­i­tive south-south re­la­tions has al­ready al­tered the tra­di­tional re­gional land­scape. We are en­ter­ing a new era for US-Africa re­la­tions. Pres­i­dent Obama de­serves an ac­co­lade for ig­nit­ing the spark for these new re­la­tions. It is our hope that other sum­mits will take place, and hope­fully the next time it will be on African soil.

An­gelle B. Kwemo, is the Man­ag­ing Direc­tor and CEO of Rim­som Strate­gies, Ltd and the Founder and Chair of Be­lieve in Africa

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