(VOVworld) – The first ever US-Africa Leaders Summit has convened in Washington, DC attended by nearly 50 state leaders of African countries. The summit aims to increase trade and economic relations between the US and Africa and strengthen the US’s presence and interests in Africa where other world powers such as China, Japan, India, and the EU are also expanding relations.
The US-Africa Leaders Summit, which takes place from August 4 – 8, will discuss pressing issues in Africa including the Ebola epidemic in Western Africa, kidnapping and killing by Islamic extremists in Nigeria, civil wars in Southern Sudan, Somalia, and Kenya, and economic cooperation between the US and African countries.
Prior to the summit, US President Barack Obama said Africa, which is one of the world’s fastest growing regions and is home to an expanding middle class, is becoming more important to the US. Expanding relations with Africa serves US interests.
Boosting economic cooperation is the main goal
Although the agenda includes several urgent issues, the main goal of the participants is boosting economic cooperation. In his opening speech, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the unprecedented summit reflects US and African determination to foster their partnership, and seek peace, security, and economic development. Kerry called on African leaders to promote free market economies and create level playing fields for foreign companies. Kerry’s request alludes to the US losing its position as Africa’s top trade partner to China 5 years ago. The US is now Africa’s third largest trade partner after the EU and China. US trade turnover with Africa was 60 billion USD last year, while the EU’s was 200 billion USD and China’s was 170 billion USD.
The US wants to increase economic cooperation with Africa because Africa has a higher growth rate than Asia. The IMF has reported that 6 of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies are in Africa.
The US is expected to announce billions of USD in aid to Africa and to propose a range of initiatives including expanding infrastructure and doubling scholarships for young African leaders.
One week prior to the summit, the Obama administration urged the US Congress to extend the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) before its expiration next September. The extension will benefit US businesses through increased trade cooperation with Africa.
Rather big challenges
Analysts say that in just one year, it will be difficult for the US and Africa to obtain desired results. The White House’s initiative in organizing the summit has stirred opposition among some government officials. Some say they want to see how the summit goes before planning any future summits. During President Obama’s second term, Africa has not been a priority of US foreign policy. Susan Rice, the President’s National Security Advisor, says Americans should change their view of Africa as a region of conflicts, diseases, and poverty and see it as a diverse and innovative region.
US-Africa relations have barriers but the 2014 summit should open the way to closer cooperation in the future.