U.S.-Africa Economic Summit

453219016President Obama addresses business leaders at the U.S.-Africa summit on August 5.

For the first time ever, the heads of state of virtually all African nations joined together in Washington, DC, to meet U.S. officials and business leaders face to face to explore common economic goals for the future. Billed as “Investing in the Next Generation,” the August 4–6 U.S.-Africa summit marks an effort by the Obama administration to improve the nation’s business relationship with Africa, which is home to 6 of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies. The summit focused on ways to boost trade and investment, especially in the food and energy sectors, as well as on issues of regional and domestic security, health care, poverty, and education.

Africa’s population, which has passed the 1 billion mark, is young and growing. In many African countries the ranks of the middle class are increasing faster than anywhere else in the world. In 2013, the economies of African countries combined grew at an average of 4 percent. Africa’s resources, such as vast oil supplies and untapped agricultural lands, together with its diverse people, represent huge potential. Today, Africa’s dominant global trade partner is China, which has made large investments in infrastructure and construction projects on the continent. The United States is playing catch-up. In 2012, just one of every 100 dollars invested overseas was in Africa. Imports from Africa, currently valued at about $27 billion a year, make up only about 2 percent of the U.S. total.

But Americans are generally more trusted by Africans than are the Chinese, whose economic interest has sometimes resembled colonial exploitation. The U.S. also enjoys more favor among Africans than do the former colonial powers of Europe. This “goodwill” advantage could be a key to increased future economic collaboration, which was a large reason for the summit.

Image credit: © SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

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