July 29, 2021
NAIROBI – The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has kicked off the Prosper Africa Build Together initiative by requesting $80 million from Congress to build trade and investment between the U.S. and Africa.
Dana Banks, U.S. senior director for Africa at the National Security Council, said Wednesday in an online news briefing that the U.S. was ready to do business with the continent.
“The campaign is a targeted effort to elevate and energize the United States commitment to trade and investment with countries across the African continent under the Biden and Harris administration,” Banks said. “And our goal is to substantially increase two-way trade and investment between the United States and Africa by connecting U.S. and African businesses and investors with tangible deal opportunities.”
It’s not the first time the U.S. government has engaged Africa on trade.
— In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the deal that provided African countries with unilateral, duty-free exports for 6,500 products to the U.S. AGOA still exists and is extended until 2025.
— According to the Brookings Institution, South Africa got $917 million in 2019 by exporting automobile and agricultural products to the U.S.
— A separate study done by the University of South Africa in 2017 found that the U.S. imported 10 percent of its wine from South Africa, worth $59 million.
— And the U.S. government is now negotiating a free trade agreement with Kenya.
More growth, jobs
Banks said America wants to participate in Africa’s growth.
“Africa’s increasing integration into the global markets, demographic boom and the thriving culture of entrepreneurship present a remarkable opportunity for us to strengthen those economic ties and promote new opportunities for both U.S. and African businesses to fuel economic growth and job creation and greater U.S. participation in Africa’s future,” she said.
Gerrishon Ikiara, an international economic affairs lecturer at the University of Nairobi, said the initiative would help strengthen the relations between the U.S. and Africa.
“The U.S. wants to tap that both for economic reasons, political and international relations reasons, because it is known all over the world that trade links also help to build political and diplomatic links. … This is key for both the U.S. and Africa as of now,” Ikiara said. “The U.S. is also knowing more about African products, African culture, with many migrant workers from Africa working in the U.S.”
However, some critics say the trade and investment plan could undermine the African Continental Free Trade Area, which was established in 2019. That agreement promotes the free movement of goods and people across the continent.