New deals and commitments worth more than $9 billion in trade and investment with Africa will be announced at the U.S-Africa Business Forum underway in New York, U.S. President Barack Obama said.
Although this will be his last time addressing the forum as president, “you should anticipate that I will be continuing to work with all of you in the years to come,” Obama told an audience of African and U.S. political and business leaders.
He suggested areas where the U.S. and African countries need to focus in the years to come — integrate African economies, diversify African exports, and bring down barriers at the borders.
And he announced that a report will be released today exploring the future beyond AGOA — the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which is now 16 years old and has been renewed through 2025. The future AGOA, Obama said, will include trade agreements that are more enduring and reciprocal.
“This is a U.S.-Africa business forum. This is not charity,” Obama said.
Obama spoke passionately about investing in African youth, according to The White House:
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs — in Soweto and Dar es Salaam and Dakar. I’ve welcomed many of them to the White House. They are spectacular. They are itching to make a difference. Their passion is inspiring. Their talent is unmatched. They are hungry for knowledge and information, and are willing to take risks. And many of them, because they’ve come from tough circumstances, by definition they’re entrepreneurial. They’ve had to make a way out of no way, and are resilient and resourceful.”
Despite significant growth, Africa’s entire GDP is still only about the GDP of France, Obama said. Just a fraction American exports — about 2 percent — go to Africa.
But American investment in Africa is up 70 percent. U.S. exports to Africa have surged. Companies including FedEx, Kellogg’s, and Google are growing their presence on the continent.
“You can hail an Uber in Lagos or Kampala,” Obama said. “In the two years since our last forum, American and African companies have concluded deals worth nearly $15 billion, which will support African development across the board, from manufacturing to health care to renewable energy. Microsoft and Mawingu Networks are partnering to provide low-cost broadband to rural Kenyans. Procter & Gamble is expanding a plant in South Africa. MasterCard will work with Ethiopian banks so that more Ethiopians can send home remittances.
“These are all serious commitments. New relationships are being forged. We are making progress, but we’re just scratching the surface. We have so much more work that can be done and will be done.”