By Sani Adamu
Over 500 young African professionals, entrepreneurs, industrialists and 50 African leaders recently converged on Washington D.C. in the U.S. to explore and exchange ideas on how best to grow Africa’s economy and move the continent forward.
The U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, which was held between Aug. 5 and Aug. 6, was convened at the instance of U.S. President Barak Obama.
Observers describe the summit as the single largest gathering of African leaders and professionals any American president has ever convened.
With the theme, “Investing in the Next Generation’’, the summit centred on how to tackle shared challenges and accelerate progress in key areas of trade and investment.
It also examined how to facilitate educational and job opportunities for the youth; inclusive and sustainable development, as well as peace and security; while securing a better future for the next generation of Africans.
The meeting also discussed Africa’s potential as a new hub of global growth which is creating more opportunities for its people than ever before.
The participants at the summit also agreed on the positive impacts which the U.S.-Africa partnerships on public health have had on efforts toward having an AIDS-free generation, improving maternal-child health and reducing poverty in Africa.
The summit also welcomed President Obama’s commitment to provide 300 million U.S. dollars in assistance annually to expand the people’s access to electricity in Africa in pursuit of a new aggregate goal of 30,000 MW.
The participants also agreed on the importance of increasing U.S. investments in Africa and welcomed the announcements made at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, including over 14 billion dollars in new private sector deals.
Specifically, Obama announced a seven-billion-dollar investment financing arrangement under the Doing Business in Africa Campaign, which will support U.S. trade and investment in Africa over the next two years.
This is in addition to the 10-billion-dollar investment already mobilised under the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition for Africa.
Besides, the summit also underscored the need to deepen U.S.-Africa cooperation by strengthening security cooperation between the U.S. and African countries.
It equally underlined the importance of ensuring steady follow-ups with regard to the commitments reached at the summit, with an assurance by Obama that the summit would be a recurring event.
While declaring the summit open, Obama conveyed the desire of American investors to seek more investment frontiers in Africa, including Nigeria.
“So we are here, of course, as part of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit — the largest gathering any American President has ever hosted with African heads of state and government.
“And this summit reflects a perspective that has guided my approach to Africa as Nigeria’s President.
“Even as Africa continues to face enormous challenges; even as too many Africans still endure poverty and conflict, hunger and disease; even as we work together to meet those challenges; we cannot lose sight of the new Africa that is emerging.
“As President, I’ve made it clear that the United States is determined to be a partner in Africa’s success — a good partner, an equal partner and a partner for the long term.
“We don’t look to Africa simply for its natural resources; we recognise Africa for its greatest resource — its people, its talents and their potential.
“We don’t simply want to extract minerals from the ground for our growth; we want to build genuine partnerships that create jobs and opportunities for all our peoples; partnerships that unleash the next era of African growth. That’s the kind of partnership America offers.
“Secondly, as part of our `Doing Business in Africa’ campaign, we’re going to do even more to help American companies compete.
“We’ll put even more of our teams on the ground, advocating on behalf of your companies. We’re going to send even more trade missions.
“Today, we’re announcing seven billion dollars in new financing to promote American exports to Africa.
“And taken together, the new commitments I’ve described today — across our government and by our many partners — total some 33 billion dollars,’’ Obama said.
Underscoring the gains of the summit, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, who applauded Obama for convening the summit, said that the crises facing Africa were largely similar and transnational in nature.
“These challenges are multifaceted. At their root are poverty, security, governance, infrastructure and capacity issues.
“It is apparent that many African countries, including Nigeria, are not going to meet all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
“Overcoming the various challenges on the road to meeting the targets of the MDGs and the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will require strengthened cooperation with the U.S. and other development partners.
“We believe that poor governance is a major cause of conflict in Africa. We would, therefore, do well to scale up efforts to nurture viable and capable states in our continent.
“We must have states that are able to provide security and ensure equitable distribution of public goods and services. Africa must also institutionalise the principles of political pluralism, good governance and respect for human rights.
“To achieve this, policy reforms and economic diversification are important. That is why in Nigeria, we embarked on far-reaching reforms in the power, agriculture and industrial sectors.
“These reforms aim at attracting private-sector investments, diversifying our economy and building our productive capacity,’’ he said.
Speaking at a dinner held in his honour by the U.S. Chambers of Commerce and the Corporate Council on Africa, Jonathan said that the volume of trade between Nigeria and the U.S. had risen to 36 billion dollars (about N6 trillion).
He said that the volume of trade would continue to grow with greater cooperation between Nigeria and its allies in the United States Government and private sector.
Jonathan specifically lauded the Obama-administration and the council for ongoing efforts to positively transform the Nigerian economy and ensure that it became one of the 20 largest economies in the world by the year 2020.
The president, who solicited greater direct investment of the U.S. in Nigeria, said that recent developments had vindicated Obama’s viewpoint last September regarding the growing international recognition of Nigeria’s role in the global economy.
“Our economy has since been re-based and it is now the largest in Africa. We are the 26th largest economy in the world and the largest trading partner of the U.S. in Africa. Latest figures show the volume of trade between Nigeria and the U.S. to be 36 billion dollars and still counting.
“Between last year and now, we hosted the World Economic Forum on Africa, which was attended by more than 1,000 participants from 70 countries.
“The forum attracted over 68 billion dollars in investment to Africa in the form of Foreign Direct Investments, as well as private and public investments targeted at projects that would develop the agriculture sector, improve infrastructure, education, skills’ development and ICT across African countries.
“We remain the largest source of natural gas and we have large areas of unexploited fertile lands for agriculture.
“’We have a huge stock of untapped solid minerals and we continue to make Nigeria an attractive destination for foreign investors through the sustained implementation of our policy of creating an attractive and conducive climate for investors,’’ he said.
Jonathan said that although oil and gas remained Nigeria’s main source of revenue and foreign exchange earner, his administration was working very hard to fully diversify the country’s economy.
He assured American investors that Nigeria was striving to end the Boko Haram insurgency and achieve greater security of lives and property in all parts of the country.
Observers are happy to note that the summit unanimously agreed to intensify efforts to eradicate abject poverty in Africa.
This, perhaps, underscores the wisdom in the appeal of Nigeria’s award-winning artiste, Dapo Oyebanjo, popularly called Dbanj, that African leaders should use the opportunity offered to them by the summit to look at ways and means of fighting poverty on the continent.
Dbanj attended the summit as an ambassador for ONE. Org, an international non-partisan, non-profit, advocacy group which fights extreme poverty and preventable diseases, particularly in Africa.
In all, observers express the hope that the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit will continue to explore avenues of boosting Africa’s economy via foreign direct investment and employment generation strategies.
They also insist that the summit, if sustained, can be a veritable tool in efforts to actualise Nigeria’s aspiration to become one of the 20 largest economies in the world by 2020. (NANFeatures)[eap_ad_3]
By Sani Adamu