The current track of U.S-Africa trade doesn’t need to change — there just needs to be more of it, said Nigeria-born entrepreneur Tony Elumelu ahead of the U.S.-Africa Business Forum scheduled for Sept. 21 in New York.
Elumelu urged U.S. presidential candidates Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump not to change U.S.-Africa policy, but instead to expand it and scale it up, Premium Times reported.
“In other words, we need more U.S. engagement in Africa through mutually beneficial trade and investment,” Elemelu said Friday in Delaware, where he was keynote speaker at U.S. Senator Chris Coons’ Opportunity Africa Conference 2016.
Elumelu challenged Americans to think about Africa when they vote. “When you meet, write, call and email your political candidates and representatives and the elected president in November, tell them that when it comes to Africa, you want more. And by ‘more,’ I mean more engagement, more positively impactful policies and more development and commercial investment in Africa.”
Funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for democracy assistance to Africa has declined an estimated 40 percent-plus since 2009, according to Newsweek.
Elumelu said he and 200 other U.S. and African political and business leaders including Obama and more than 30 African Presidents will be discussing how to strengthen mutually beneficial economic ties between the African and American people at this week’s U.S.-Africa Business Forum, The Nation reported.
Obama did not initiate the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) — that was President Bill Clinton — and he didn’t establish the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) for military command on the continent—President George W. Bush did that. But it would be a mistake to discount the changes made to U.S.-Africa trade during Obama’s term, Newsweek reported.
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“America has been involved in Africa for decades. But we are moving beyond the simple provision of assistance, foreign aid, to a new model of partnership between America and Africa—a partnership of equals that focuses on your capacity to solve problems, and your capacity to grow,” Obama said during a major policy address at the University of Cape Town when he toured Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania in 2013.
On Obama’s watch, the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit convened in 2014. Trade and investment dominated the agenda at the largest gathering of African heads of state and government ever brought by an American president. The U.S.-Africa Business Forum was one of the features of the gathering.
Obama also started the Young African Leaders Initiative in 2014 to support African leaders in strengthening prosperity and democratic governance. The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders brings 500 young African leaders, age 25-35 to the U.S. for six weeks of leadership training and mentoring at 20 U.S. universities and colleges in entrepreneurship, civic engagement and public administration.
The 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship is accepting applications.
The second edition of U.S.-Africa Business Forum is happening this week, as is the United Nations General Assembly. The forum will bring together African officials and executives of major companies to develop business opportunities, Newsweek reported.
In 2015, Elumelu kicked off a multi-year entrepreneurship program to train, fund and mentor the next generation of African entrepreneurs. The program goal is to identify and help grow 10,000 start-ups and young businesses from across Africa over 10 years. These businesses, if all goes according to plan, will create 1 million new jobs and contribute $10 billion to African economies.
“These entrepreneurs are Africa’s hope for the future,” Elumelu said, according to a Forbes report. His ultimate goal? “To drive Africa’s economic and social transformation from within and to radically intensify job creation in Africa.”
It is too soon to fully assess President Obama’s legacy in Africa, Newsweek reported:
However, in consistently articulating that the continent is “more important than ever to the security and prosperity of the international community, and to the United States in particular,” the president and his administration have shifted the Africa narrative in the minds of American decision makers and the general public who, through their votes as well as their shared ownership of U.S. corporations doing business in Africa, will determine both policy and business decisions for years to come.