By Prudence Arobani
New York – The United States has pledged its unwavering commitment to Africa, saying its potential with the continent is limitless.
U.S. Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, Tibor Nagy, stated this while testifying to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on U.S. policy toward Africa.
Nagy said: “Africa is facing a demographic tsunami. Its population will double by 2050 to around 2.5 billion people, 50 per cent of whom will be under the age of 24.
“Challenges with infrastructure, corruption and terrorism continue, and China is asserting itself on the continent economically, militarily and politically.
“We must remain a positive alternative, and make clear that engaging with the United States will mean greater prosperity and security for Africa.”
Nagy said African governments needed to increase transparency and fairness in their commercial environments to attract more business, have predictable policies, laws conforming to international standards and a credible dispute resolution process.
“Second, more than 60 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa, 600 million people, is below the age of 25, representing 40 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa’s unemployed.
“We are working to match American investment and ingenuity with the dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit of young Africans; anchoring them to their countries, and keeping them from resorting to migration, militancy or crime.
“A third area is working to advance peace and security through partnerships with African governments and effective regional mechanism. Finally, we focused on countering the Chinese narrative and setting the record straight.
“The United States has a longstanding commitment to Africa, as a partner positively supporting economic growth, good governance, rule of law, enhanced gender equality, and health of the African people,” Nagy said.
He emphasised that the U.S. sought “to do business not just in Africa, but with Africa.
“Trade has greatly expanded. Under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, AGOA, from 2000 to 2016 U.S. investment in sub-Saharan Africa increased from seven to 29 billion dollars, providing opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Africans.
“Since 2000, U.S. exports to Africa rose from six to more than 14 billion dollars last year, and U.S. imports from Africa totaled nearly 25 billion dollars, a total two-way trade of 39 billion dollars in 2017, up 5.8 per cent from 2015,” he said.
On investing in Africa and investing in Africans, Nagy said through the Young African Leaders Initiative, the U.S. equipped the next generation of Africans with leadership and entrepreneurship skills.
He said promoting peace and security was essential to secure Africa’s opportunities and prosperity, adding, the U.S. supports African-led efforts against terrorism and other transnational threats.
Nagy said, “U.S. assistance has brought some success in the Lake Chad region, Somalia and elsewhere, and we seek burden-sharing opportunities with non-African actors as well.
“We have provided training to peacekeepers from more than 20 African countries, with substantial impact. Ten years ago, Africans comprised only 40 per cent of the continent’s peacekeepers.
“Now that figure has exceeded 60 per cent. U.S.-funded programming is vital to these forces, as it is to the G5 Sahel Joint Force and African-driven efforts in the Lake Chad region to counter terrorism in West Africa.
“Finally, we want to be clear to all Africans that the United States has an unwavering commitment to the continent, shown through our long-standing partnerships and support for good governance, security, human rights and economic growth, and provision of humanitarian assistance.”
Nagy, however, cautioned African countries to “know that some infrastructure projects and seemingly attractive loan terms from other countries can lead down a dangerous path to indebtedness, loan defaults, and concessionary extraction of natural resources stifling the economic growth needed to create jobs.
“In contrast, the United States is pursuing sustainable alternatives for African growth and development.
“U.S. programmes like AGOA, PEPFAR, Power Africa, and Feed the Future opened the U.S. market to African goods, countered HIV/AIDS, brought electricity to rural areas, protected vulnerable women and children, supported youth entrepreneurship, and helped Africans in innumerable ways.”