Africa to benefit from $1bn US business deals


Lesley Wroughton Washington

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President Barack Obama hosts dozens of African heads of state in Washington in a summit from today until Wednesday, during which a number of public-private partnerships will be announced. Photo: AP

THE US would announce nearly $1 billion (R10.6bn) in business deals, raise funding for peacekeeping and commit billions of dollars to expanding food and power programmes in Africa during a summit this week, US and development officials said at the weekend.

US officials said the summit of nearly 50 African leaders, which runs from today until Wednesday in Washington, hoped to showcase US interest in the fast-growing continent through a series of public-private partnership deals to boost trade and investment.

The spread of the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone is also a reminder of the vast development needs that persist in some of the region’s poorest countries despite rapid economic growth and investment.

Administration officials have played down questions over whether the summit was in response to China’s growing presence in the region. Instead, they have emphasised that American interests went beyond Africa’s oil and minerals, on which China had focused.

“You will see a series of announcements on agriculture and food, and power and energy,” said Rajiv Shah, the administrator of the US Agency for International Development. “We will make big announcements that demonstrate these are big ambitions we can take on with our African partners and the private sector.”

Shah said there would be new support for Power Africa, a privately funded programme launched by US President Barack Obama last year to install 10 000 megawatts of new generation capacity and connect 20 million new customers across Africa by 2018.

The programme had already met that goal after just one year, Shah said. “[This] week we will announce a more than doubling of our aspirations.”

He said while companies had pledged $7bn to the programme last year, this week “we will see in excess of $20bn” in new investments. World Bank officials said the bank was expected to make a major contribution toward the programme. It was likely to be expanded from the six nations – Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania – currently benefiting.

There would be significant increases in private sector support for US-backed food and agricultural programmes in Africa, including the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, US development officials said.

The programme was launched in 2012 to bring together African governments, the private sector and donors to boost investment in agricultural production after a massive 2008/09 food price crisis, which sparked unrest in developing nations globally.

An announcement worth billions of dollars by a large US beverage company was expected to boost purchases from African farmers, one official said, but declined to elaborate.

The summit will include a business conference tomorrow bringing together African leaders and American chief executives. US Commerce Department officials said close to $1bn in various business deals would be announced covering different sectors and involving several African countries.

Trade ministers will spend a day discussing ways to improve the US trade programme with sub-Saharan Africa, known as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which gives African countries duty-free access to US markets. Agoa expires in September next year and will need congressional approval for renewal.

In other funding increases, US officials said the State Department was due to announce a further $60 million a year for peacekeeping training in six African countries. – Reuters

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