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Africa summit highlights business opportunities

President pushes U.S.-African diaspora to get involved in international trade

Cynthia E. Griffin | 8/8/2014, midnight
During the largest gathering of African leaders that any American head of state has ever hosted, President Barack Obama on ...

During the largest gathering of African leaders that any American head of state has ever hosted, President Barack Obama on Tuesday talked about a number of initiatives that the United States and its global partners are engaged in to help the continent develop.

But as he laid out the initiatives, the president also stressed that the goal is not to simply access Africa’s natural resources, but to build partnerships that help create jobs and opportunity for people in the continent and the United States.

One of the key ways President Obama intends to push his Africa agenda is with the creation of the President's Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (DBIA).

The council “shall consist of not more than 15 private sector corporate members, including small businesses and representatives from infrastructure, agriculture, consumer goods, banking, services, and other industries.” Appointments to the Advisory Council shall be made without regard to political affiliation and shall be made by the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC).

The council will advise the president, through the Secretary of Commerce, on strengthening commercial engagement between the United States and Africa, with a focus on advancing the president's DBIA.

The DBIA campaign encourages U.S. commercial engagement in Africa by harnessing the resources of the U.S. government to assist businesses in identifying and seizing opportunities and to engage with members of the African Diaspora in the United States. The DBIA campaign, which was launched in November 2012, has four main objectives:

• Connect American businesses with African partners;

• Support existing and new American investment in Africa;

• Expand access for American businesses to finance their exports to Africa; and

• Reduce barriers to trade and investment in Africa.

The president also noted that during the summit, an estimated $14 billion in investments in areas such as clean energy, aviation, banking and construction had been announced.

Additionally, he announced that through the DBIA campaign, an additional $7 billion in new financing will be made available to promote American exports into Africa. An estimated $12 billion in new commitments from private sector partners, the World Bank and Sweden will be added to the “Power Africa” initiative and the plan’s goal to provide electricity to residents on the continent will be ramped up fro 20 to 60 billion people.

Obama also outlined a long list of sources and actions that the United States government will offer to support American exports and investment in Africa. These range from mobilizing additional private capital to helping build infrastructure on the continent through a series of at least three outcome-oriented roundtables that will advance project- and sector-specific investment opportunities and needed regulatory reforms.

The Small Business Administration and the Export-Import Bank will support 50 DBIA campaign-themed activities and outreach sessions over the next two years designed to facilitate U.S. trade finance including providing counseling and training and conducting business development programs to help U.S. exporters, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises.

A number of other U.S. trade agencies will receive funding to support more private-sector investment while up to $1 billion in finance guarantees will be available through the department of agriculture to finance ag exports to Africa. Additionally, the USDA will also conduct outreach seminars to Africa in 2015 to promote the use of its credit guarantee program.

The Department of Commerce will open new trade offices in Angola, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Mozambique and expand its operations in Ghana.

The commerce department will also host a Discover Sub-Saharana Africa conference in Atlanta in November to celebrate the second year of the DBIA initiative, and the Minority Business Development Agency will help host a number of workshops including one in October promoting business and trade opportunities.

A detailed list of all of the president’s commitments can be found at the following websites: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/08/05/fact-sheet-doing-business-africa-campaign and http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/08/05/fact-sheet-powering-africa-increasing-access-power-sub-saharan-africa.