Barack Obama has announced more than $14bn of investment by US companies in Africa and helped mobilise a further $17bn in other state and multilateral funds for the continent as Washington seeks to claw back some of the ground lost recently to China by hosting the first US-Africa summit.
The investments are across a range of sectors including a commitment between Blackstone, the US private equity group, and the industrial conglomerate of Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest businessman. The money will go towards energy infrastructure projects. Coca-Cola and IBM pledged $5bn and $2bn of investments, respectively, in coming years.
General Electric, the US industrial group, will also invest $2bn on the continent, in deals linked to the US president’s Power Africa initiative. Launched last year, Power Africa will pool billions of dollars of investment, underpinned by state involvement, towards developing energy supplies on the continent.
“I want Africa buying more American products. I want America buying more African products,” Mr Obama told an assembly of nearly 100 US chief executives, African leaders and business people organised by Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and media businessman.
“Let’s tear down the barriers that slow us down and get in the way of trade. Let’s build the infrastructure,” he said.
The World Bank on Tuesday pledged $5bn towards Power Africa and Sweden $1bn, taking the total money leveraged for the initiative so far to $26bn, Mr Obama announced. This meant that he could raise the goal of helping to double African access to electricity, as originally intended, to tripling it.
Close to 50 heads of state are attending the Washington summit, called as part of Mr Obama’s effort to improve US relations with Africa with a new focus on trade and investment.
Many Africans celebrated Mr Obama becoming US president in 2008 as a victory for racial equality and had high hopes that it would mark the beginnings of a more equal relationship between the US and Africa.
However, his first term proved a disappointment on the continent with the US slow to move on from the health and development initiatives of the Clinton and Bush administrations and produce a coherent response to the continent’s rapidly evolving markets, increasingly assertive governments and aspirational populations.
The summit, is also a response to the competition for African resources, markets and influence posed by the engagement of emerging powers such as China, India, Turkey and ….