By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
During the US-Africa Leaders Summit, the White House and African leaders stressed the importance of Africa’s voices at two distinctive levels – the first at the United Nations Security Council and G-20, and the second within the US-African institutional structures. For the United States, engaging African professionals is one surest way to work towards integrated relations.
US President, Mr Joe Biden, has already signed an executive order for the creation of an African Diaspora Secretariat as part of the White House administration.
The African Union representative office in Washington signals the fact that, in terms of monitoring and coordinating, the continental body is getting down to practical business in working with the diaspora and uplifting relations between the United States and Africa.
According to World Bank Statistics, remittance inflows to Sub-Saharan Africa soared 14.1 per cent to $49 billion in 2021, following an 8.1 per cent decline in the previous year due coronavirus pandemic. Beyond remittances, Africa stands to benefit largely from the input of its diaspora considered progressive in the United States.
Over the years, African leaders have been engaging with their diaspora, especially those excelling in sports, academia, business, science, technology, engineering and other significant sectors that the continent needs to optimize its diverse potentials and to meet development priorities. These are bridges leveraging the United States and Africa.
The African diaspora ranks among the most educated immigrant group and makes invaluable contributions in various sectors, including business, medicine, healthcare, engineering, transportation and many more. It is an important factor in strengthening the connectivity between the regions, which ultimately supports U.S.-Africa relations in this emerging multipolar world.
Welcoming African entrepreneurs, African-American and African leaders for a reception, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was guided by the principle of close partnership with Africa.
“We can’t solve any of the really big challenges we face if we don’t work together. So it’s about what we can do with African nations and its people,” Blinken said. “We welcome all other members of the international community, including the United States, to join us in the global efforts to help Africa.”
In featuring prominently integrative aspects and cultural familiarity within the African diaspora, New York Mayor Eric Adams said that the success of African Americans showed the need for Africans to “walk differently.”
“We are thrilled with the outcome of this historic summit gathering,” said Nima Elmi, CEO and Co-Founder of Africa House. “Not only did it benefit the United States and African diplomatic relationships, but leaders will also leave with tangible business and economic outputs.”
Africa House will hold various events throughout the year, with the next one scheduled to take place in Davos, Switzerland, next month as part of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting. Africa House is a non-profit project supported by a team of experts that bring together a combined 30+ years of experience on the continent and leading African initiatives.
The Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs, Secretariat of the Africa Diaspora, the Africa House and the Young African Leaders Initiative are efforts directed at promoting multifaceted relations with Africa. Now there is the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement in the United States working on deepening some aspects of relations with the region.
Ambassador Johnnie Carson, a Senior Advisor at the Institute’s Africa Centre, has been appointed as Special Representative for the US-Africa Leaders Summit implementation. Ultimately, for coordinating and monitoring questions relating to the entire post-Summit implementation processes, including projects and programmes.
He will be working closely with government ministries and departments, institutions and organizations both in the United States and Africa. He will liaise with the State’s Bureau of African Affairs and the newly created Secretariat of the Africa Diaspora at the Presidency, and non-government organizations.
Ambassador Carson has tremendous organizational skills, and his professional reputation is well-known both in the United States and in Africa. His 37-year career in foreign service includes ambassadorships to the Republics of Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda. Among other posts, he has also served as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs, as National Intelligence Officer for Africa at the National Intelligence Council, and as the Senior Vice-President of the National Defense University in Washington.
His appointment was based on the fact that his passion, diplomatic know-how, well-established network of leaders and civil society members and unwavering dedication are results-oriented, as shown in the preparation of the US-Africa Leaders Summit held in December in Washington.
“There is not a better signal or a better person, in terms of the fact that we are going to have a real and genuine follow-up, than the fact that Johnnie Carson is going to be riding herd over a day in, day out. And if he puts his mind to something, he will get it done,” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said about him at a press conference during the summit.
In response to the appointment, Ambassador Carson said, “I am humbled to serve in this new role. The coming months will be a critical time to cement the progress made at the US-Africa Leaders Summit to ensure the United States and Africa’s relationships are bolstered and expanded as we partner ahead on the African Union’s Agenda 2063.”
Beyond the Biden Administration, beginning in 2023 the US (both public and private sector) have year-round comprehensive programmes, concrete initiatives and various investment projects to work on and that appeal to the hearts and minds of African leaders and their people. The White House looks to use the existing opportunities to deepen as many partnerships as possible and to ultimately narrow the gaping trust gap with Africa.
Participants to Explore Future of Alternative Energy Solutions at MEE
By Adedapo Adesanya
Middle East Energy, the leading energy industry event in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, will make its anticipated return to the Dubai World Trade Centre on March 7—9, 2023, to guide energy transition conversations across the globe.
The event, which is the 48th of its kind, is organised by Informa Markets, the leading global exhibitions organiser. It will bring together buyers and sellers from across different countries to explore the latest advancements in energy products and solutions.
The programme will provide opportunities to network with international energy suppliers, discover products and solutions that are changing the energy landscape, and build long-lasting business relationships.
Speaking on this, Mr Ade Yesufu, Exhibition Manager, Middle East Energy, said, “Over the years, Middle East Energy has supported the global energy community to find solutions that empower the rapid acceleration of electricity consumption across the Middle East and other parts of the world.
“This year, the aim is to advance the conversations in light of the current global reality and changes in the energy industry. This event also brings together the highest level of decision-makers and international partners to connect and discover innovative products and solutions that can deliver cleaner energy and supply sustainable power.”
With over 800 exhibiting companies representing 170 countries and a 20,000+ global audience, participants will explore insights on the future of alternative energy solutions that will help in delivering more efficient and effective power systems.
This edition of Middle East Energy will focus on five key product sections that are leading the way in the energy transition: Smart Solutions, Renewable & Clean Energy, Backup Generators & Critical Power, Transmission & Distribution, and Energy Consumption & Management.
Middle East Energy will also feature strategic conferences and content arenas focusing on the latest technologies and products to provide a platform for knowledge sharing, support relationship building, and uncover solutions to some of the most pressing challenges posed by the energy transition.
These include CEO roundtables, technical sessions, and the Intersolar Conference, which will bring together global policymakers, utilities, developers, financiers, and technology leaders across three days to create the blueprint for a successful energy transition across the Middle East and Africa.
The confirmed panellists include: Licypriya Kangujam, an 11-year-old climate activist; Mr Raphael Mworia, Commercial Director, KETRACO – Kenya Electricity Transmission Company Ltd; Mr Abraham Serem, Acting Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, KenGen – Kenya Electricity Generating Company; and Mr Abdulaziz Al Naim, CEO, Saudi Power Company;
Others include Dr Joseph Oketch, Director – Electricity and Renewable Energy, Energy & Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Kenya; Mrs Leila Benali, Minister of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development, Kingdom of Morocco; Mr Azhar Hussain, Principal Investment Officer, International Finance Corporation (IFC).
Other conferences include The Technical Seminar, an interactive forum for the world’s leading energy experts and technical minds to discuss and explore the innovations and technologies driving the energy transition and Intersolar Middle East, a gathering of solar and renewable energy industry professionals in the MEA region to discuss the transformative dynamics of renewable energies around the world.
Janet Yellen: United States Focuses on Business Investment and Infrastructure Development in Africa
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
United States officials, at least, are strategically moving to reset multi-dimensional relations with Africa after the last African leaders’ summit held in Washington. President Joseph Bidden and Vice President Kamala Harris, in well-coordinated working agenda, with the White House, the Department of African Affairs and the US Treasury, are up to the task. This challenging task is backed by a $55 billion budget publicly announced during the African leaders’ gathering.
It all began with a series of working visits to Africa in late December and early 2023, which underscored the message delivered by Biden at the last summit: “The United States is all in on Africa, and all in with Africa.” The $55 billion budget and along with private sector investment for Africa, well-built institutionalized structures and the African-American diaspora, are distinctively linking together the United States and Africa.
On January 20, the US Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, went on a 10-day trip to three African countries that aimed to revitalize and expand US-African ties and address challenges such as climate change, food security and debt in Africa. After decades in which China has dominated investment on the continent, the US is pitching itself as a more sustainable alternative. In the sub-Sahara, Yellen visited Senegal, Zambia and South Africa.
That will be followed by the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who travelled to three Republics of Ghana, Mozambique and Kenya starting Jan. 25 and another round trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken official visits to Eastern Western and Southern Africa.
In Dakar, Yellen had extensive and fruitful discussions with Senegalese President Macky Sall, who is also the rotating Chair of the African Union. The African Union is a 55-member continental organization with headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. With President Macky Sall, she highlighted the United States’ efforts to boost economic ties with the region “by expanding trade and investment flows,” according to official reports.
Later, she also interacted with Senegal’s Minister of Economy, International Planning, and Cooperation, Oulimata Sarr, who, like Yellen, is also the first woman to serve in her current role. In a meeting with Finance Minister Mamadou Moustapha Ba, Yellen said the two officials had “much to discuss on how best to meet the challenges both of our countries face, including in the context of global financial tightening and an increasingly uncertain global economic environment. The U.S. is committed to working with Africa to realize that promise because we know that a stronger African economy is good for the world and good for the United States.”
In a speech delivered at a business event in Senegal’s capital Dakar, Yellen mapped out the United States’ vision for strengthening African relations, eyeing the massive economic opportunities created by its demographic boom.
Currently, Senegal is participating in a G-20 programme that helps finance a shift from fossil fuels to clean power generation, it’s also on the verge of becoming a significant fossil-fuel producer. A new offshore project straddling its border with Mauritania is projected to bring Senegal $1.4 billion in oil and gas revenue from 2023 to 2025. The project may also provide Europe with energy relief as it turns away from Russian gas and oil.
Reports indicated that Treasury Yellen gave the concrete go-ahead on the rural electrification project in Senegal. The new rural electrification project is estimated to bring reliable power to 350,000 people while supporting some 500 jobs in 14 American States.
Our monitoring shows that Yellen travelled to the site of the project, headed by Illinois-based engineering firm Weldy Lamont. The new project received technical assistance from the US Power Africa initiative, capacity building through the US Agency for Trade and Development, and a $102.5 million loan guarantee from the Export-Import Bank.
“Our goal is to deepen our economic relationship further and to invest in expanding energy access in a way that uses renewable resources spread across the continent,” Ms Yellen underlined in her remarks. Senegal has among the highest rates of electrification across Sub-Saharan Africa – between 70% and 80% – but access to electricity remains far more limited in rural areas.
Such disparities can hinder opportunities for households and businesses in areas otherwise ripe for economic development, Yellen said. The project includes an important renewable energy element with a solar grid to power 70 villages. “This groundbreaking will create a higher quality of life in many communities, and it will help Senegal’s economy grow and prosper. It will also help Senegal get one step closer to its goal of universal electricity access by 2025,” she said.
Yellen, who met women and youth entrepreneurs in Dakar, said the electrification project would allow Senegal to rely on energy sources that are within its borders, cost-effective and not prone to the kind of volatility in energy prices sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The US Power Africa project has helped connect 165 million people to reliable electricity across Africa. Its goal is to add at least 30,000 megawatts (MW) of cleaner and more reliable electricity generation capacity and 60 million new home and business connections by 2030.
Yellen then travelled to Zambia to meet President Hakainde Hichilema as well as other finance officials. President Hichilema, who took office in 2021, has promised to restore the copper-rich nation’s credibility and creditworthiness after inheriting a cash-strapped economy. Here, she spoke on efforts to improve global health and prepare for future pandemics, as well as on food production.
Yellen cited $11 billion in commitments by the US Development Finance Corp and $3 billion in programmes by the Millennium Challenge Corp in 14 African countries, with more in the pipeline. On a wider scale, the G7 group of wealthy Western nations also planned to mobilise some $600 billion for global infrastructure investments over the next five years.
“We are saying that African countries firmly belong at the table. Their communities are disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of global challenges. And any serious solution requires African leadership and African voices,” she said.
In South Africa, which recently assumed the chairmanship of the BRICS emerging economies group, Yellen held talks with Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana and South Africa Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago. She also visited the Ford assembly plant to showcase successful examples of US-Africa economic relations.
Washington provided about $13 billion in emergency aid and food assistance last year and was now setting up a US-Africa strategic partnership to address the short-term food needs of more than 300 million Africans, Yellen said. It is also helping to build more resilient and sustainable systems for the future.
In practical terms, Yellen focused on building relationships and understanding the barriers to investment and business in Africa. Our monitoring shows that Chinese trade with Africa is about four times that of the United States, and Beijing rapidly expanded its lending by offering cheaper loans, although the opaque terms and collateral requirements are now being questioned by some African countries.
The United States is currently looking to broaden investment in South Africa, which is developing new legislation to speed up energy projects. There are a number of external players showing interest in the energy sector; these include Russia, China, United Arab Emirates and others in the Arab world.
Former US ambassador Susan Page told AFP that despite positive developments like the major summit in Washington last year, “the proof is in the pudding” when it comes to pledges of support for African countries. “Are they really going to come up with the serious money… Or is it going to be a trade-off?” asked Page, now a professor at the University of Michigan. She added that while US moves have been largely framed as countering China’s advances, it “is a shame because African countries want to be treated as Africa, and not as a wedge between great power competition.”
Joseph Siegle, who leads the Africa Center for Strategic Studies research programme, said the scope of Yellen’s visit was far broader than the matter of China’s influence. “From an emerging market standpoint, there is a lot going on there – with its resources and growth and a large African diaspora in the US. Arguably, the US has not paid enough attention to Africa with the rigour that’s warranted,” he said. “I think the significance of this trip is trying to rectify there hasn’t been enough high-level engagement on the part of the US in Africa.”
In fact, despite criticisms especially over neo-colonialism and unipolarism, the United States and Africa are culturally, and by biological blood, inseparable. According to the latest World Bank report, remittances from the African diaspora to the continental was $49 billion in 2021.
With rivals China and Russia competing for influence and opportunity in Africa, the United States has been working to stave off an erosion of its once-powerful position in the region. But as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen strongly noted, the histories of the United States and Africa were “intimately connected” by the “tragedy” of slavery, as Washington seeks to strengthen relations with the continent. Speaking at Goree Island off the Senegalese capital of Dakar, the largest slave trading centre on the African coast.
For their part, many African countries say they are keen on increased investment and financial support for infrastructure development across Africa. And that Africa is only ready for potential credible investors and not for active anti-American sloganeers and ideological choristers. Africa is not a field for confrontation but for cooperating on transforming the economy and operating the single continental market.
In the emerging multipolar world, the United States still shares cultural values and democratic principles with Africa. The trans-Atlantic slave trade is an integral part of both American and African history. The United States is their second home, nowhere else. The United States and Africa are ‘intimately connected’ by slavery, have culturally indivisible bondage, and currently, with the growing African-American diaspora, it is completely absurd and awkward for external geopolitical rival countries to ask African leaders and Africans to abandon their history and the United States.
United States and Africa: Increased Engagement Regarding Trade Creating Opportunities in AfCFTA
By Virusha Subban
There was more good news for the successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement in December 2022, when a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the United States (US) Trade Representative and the AfCFTA Secretariat at the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit (Summit) in Washington DC. The MoU covers expanded engagement between the two regions and intends to “promote equitable, sustainable, and inclusive trade; boost competitiveness; and attract investment to the continent.”
It was also announced at the Summit that the US intended to invest $55 billion in Africa over the next three years and that $15 billion would be deployed in “two-way trade and investment commitments, deals, and partnerships that advance key priorities, including sustainable energy, health systems, agribusiness, digital connectivity, infrastructure, and finance.”
The trade partnership between the US and Africa has been strengthening for some time. In July 2021, the Biden Administration announced that it would renew the US Prosper Africa initiative, started in 2019, with a focus on increasing reciprocal trade and investment between the US and African countries.
At the time, the US said that the initiative would focus on improving trade and investment in sectors such as infrastructure, energy and climate solutions, healthcare and technology. Seventeen US government agencies working as part of this initiative were given a mandate to, among other things, empower African businesses, offer deal support and connect investors from the US with those in Africa. The renewed Prosper Africa initiative also focuses on projects that support women and small and medium enterprises in Africa. It was further announced at the December 2022 Summit that, through the Prosper Africa initiative, plans were being made to boost African exports to the US by $1 billion through investments and partnerships and to mobilise an additional $1 billion in US investment in Africa.
The US has often expressed its support for AfCFTA, stating that it wants to see the growth of Africa’s economic power in the world. All future trade agreements signed between the US and African countries will have to align with AfCFTA’s trade stipulations and, considering the Biden Administration’s environmental stance, new agreements will likely also include climate change provisions and tariffs on high-carbon imports.
The Administration has also been focusing on trade agreements that don’t disadvantage US businesses and consumers. In July 2022, the US-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP) was signed, outlining the enhanced engagement and high standard of commitment between the two countries, and focusing on increased investment and sustainable and inclusive growth that will be of benefit to both countries’ citizens and businesses.
The agreement also included the intention to support regional economic integration in East Africa. Further reciprocal bilateral and regional trade agreements between the US and African countries are expected to be signed in the near future. Such agreements are expected to eventually replace the non-reciprocal African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which allows duty- and quota-free exports from eligible African countries into the US and which is due to expire in 2025.
Trade between the two regions is steadily rising. At the Summit, the Biden Administration noted that since 2021, the US has assisted in closing more than 800 two-way trade and investment deals worth around USD 18 billion across 47 African countries. In addition, the value of private investment deals from the US into Africa since 2021 is valued at $8.6 billion. The US focus on increased engagement and continued trade and investment in Africa has clearly already led to an increase in trade and investment opportunities in both regions.
Virusha Subban is the Partner Specialising in Customs and Trade, and Head of the Tax Practice at Baker McKenzie Johannesburg
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