U.S. Encourages Americans to Do Business in Africa, Where China Is Rising

Jon Street | November 28, 2012 | 8:01am EST
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An aerial view of Lagos, Nigeria. (AP Photos/Sunday Alamba)

(CNSNews.com) - As part of President Obama’s “Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa,” the Commerce Department is launching a campaign called “Doing Business in Africa.” This comes several years after China replaced the U.S. as the continent’s largest trading partner.

Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank is promoting U.S.-Africa trade agreements  this week during a visit to South Africa and Kenya.

“As President Obama has said, Africa is a region of growing opportunity and promise, and it has the potential to be the world’s next major economic success story,” Blank said in an announcing her visit to the continent..

“As part of our efforts under the National Export Initiative to support U.S. companies in selling their goods and services to the world, we must do everything possible to ensure we are promoting trade and investment with Africa." 

Blank said the Commerce Department has an important role to play when it comes to helping American companies understand the trade and investment opportunities in Africa "that will not only support the region’s economic expansion, but will also create jobs in America.”

The Commerce Department’s new “Doing Business in Africa” campaign is intended to make U.S. businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized companies, aware of opportunities for trade with and investment in Africa.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), China surpassed the United States as Africa's major trading partner in 2009.

In August, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited six African nations where she also plugged trade partnerships with the U.S.

Although she did not mention China by name, she did tell Africans that the United States would “stand up for democracy and universal human rights, even when it might be easier or more profitable to look the other way, to keep the resources flowing. Not every partner makes that choice, but we do and we will.”

Clinton’s comments in Dakar, Senegal, struck a nerve in China, where the official Xinhua news agency accused her of making a “cheap shot.”

“Whether Clinton was ignorant of the facts on the ground or chose to disregard them, her implication that China has been extracting Africa's wealth for itself is utterly wide of the truth," Xinhua said.

In July, at the fifth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the Chinese ambassador to Africa hailed Africa's "hardworking people, rich natural resources, huge markets and great potentials for future development."

He noted that the international community is "recognizing more opportunities" in a rising Africa, and he explained that China and Africa, as developing nations, have a lot in common:

"China is the world's largest developing country and Africa is home to the largest numbers of developing countries. As a result, we share extensive and common interests and broad agreement on many issues...By working together, China and Africa have been upholding and expanding the common interests of developing countries as a whole," Ambassador Tian Xuejun said.

The Commerce Department agrees that sub-Saharan Africa offers “enormous opportunities” to the American private sector. According to Commerce, the region’s GDP totaled about $1.25 trillion in 2011 and was home to six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies in the same year.

In 2011, U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa (mainly mainly machinery, vehicles and parts) totaled $21.3 billion, while imports (mainly crude oil, minerals and gems) were $74.3 billion, an increase from $17.1 billion and $65 billion in 2010, respectively.

Total trade between the U.S. and Sub-Saharan Africa increased by 16 percent between 2010 and 2011, and in the first half of 2012, U.S. goods exports to Sub-Saharan Africa are up 4.6 percent over the same period in 2011.

“The President’s ‘Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa’ seeks to build on this success,” the Commerce Department said.

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