US-Africa trade: Lofty goals, lagging investment

By Julian Pecquet
Posted on Thursday, 22 September 2022 16:30

US President Biden and South Africa's President Ramaphosa hold talks at the White House in Washington
US President Joe Biden greets South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 16, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

To hear the Joe Biden administration tell it, the US government is convinced Africa will be the next global economic powerhouse.

With a quarter of earth’s population by 2050 and a median age under 20, Africa appears poised to replace China as both a giant consumer market for American goods and services and as the world’s factory. Washington insists the US and Africa are a natural fit and has made trade a centrepiece of its US-Africa Leaders Summit in mid-December.

“Our administration’s goal is to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development across the continent, to expand capital flows, and to promote the vibrant spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation that is so prevalent across Africa,” Vice President Kamala Harris said when announcing the summit.

As global supply chains for everything from critical minerals to food and fertiliser come under threat from intensifying competition with China and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, US investment in Africa is expected to be a key focus of the three-day summit. On 14 December, the US Chamber of Commerce and the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) will co-host the Africa Business Forum, the official private sector stakeholder event of the summit.

Africa has a role to play “not just as a market for US exports, but as a major partner in key value chains,” former US trade official and current CCA President and CEO Florizelle Liser tells The Africa Report.” US producers and manufacturers will use Africa as a place to manufacture products as they do in other parts of the world already, like China.”