US-Africa Leaders Summit promises good things
Last week during the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington DC, US President Barack Obama committed his country to a long-term African investment of $33 billion. His administration is clear on the point that it no longer wishes to engage with Africa as a provider of financial aid, but rather as a commercial partner.
“I do not see the countries and peoples of Africa as a world apart,” said Obama at the summit. “I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world – partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children. That partnership must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect.”
This is an encouraging statement for Africa since, as Kofi Annan told the Washington Post in the days leading up to the summit, investment from the US can help Africa to achieve its potential. As Obama also said, “Through our trade Africa initiative, we would increase our investment to help our African partners build their own capacity to trade, to strengthen regional markets, make borders more efficient, modernise the Customs system. We want to get African goods moving faster within Africa as well as outside of Africa.”
The Young Africans Leaders Initiative
A particular focus of the summit was African youths and entrepreneurship. Five hundred African youths were in the capital city during the summit week as part of a Young Africans Leaders Initiative (YALI) tour. Obama met with them and had this to say about the experience: “Finally, we are doing more to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs and business leaders. You would have been proud to meet these young people who exhibit so much talent and so much energy and so much drive.”
Speaking of the new leadership centres and online training opportunities that are to stem from the US’s investment into Africa, Obama added, “[these] will offer courses to tens of thousands of young entrepreneurs across Africa. Grants will help them access the capital they need to grow. We want to make sure that all that talent is tapped and they have the access to capital and the networks and the markets that they need to succeed. Because if they succeed, the countries in which they live will succeed; they will create jobs, they will create growth, they will create opportunities.”