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POLITICS: PennAve

U.S. businesses to invest $14 billion in Africa

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Politics,White House,Barack Obama,China,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,Africa,Trade

President Obama plans to announce a $14 billion commitment from U.S. business to invest in Africa in areas ranging from construction and energy to banking and information technology.

Obama’s announcement will come Tuesday afternoon during a business forum at the U.S.-Africa summit aimed at strengthening trade and financial ties.

Hosted by the Commerce Department and Bloomberg Philanthropies, the forum will bring together CEOs and government leaders, including Obama, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former President Bill Clinton.

Africa is home to eight of the world’s 15 fastest-growing economies between 2000 and 2013. The continent’s GDP of more than $2 trillion in 2013 is now larger than India’s, according to a new McKinsey & Co. report.

By its own admission, the U.S. is playing catch-up in the race to invest in Africa, as China and other countries have swooped in over the last few years to cultivate some of the newly stabilized and still-underdeveloped areas of the continent.

While the U.S. has been distracted by two wars in the Middle East and steadying the U.S. economy after a free fall, China’s trade with Africa has surged from about $10 billion in 2000 to $166 billion in 2011, and $200 billion in 2012, according to official figures from Beijing and separate analysis from the Brookings Institution.

In contrast, U.S.-Africa trade in 2012 was just $99.8 billion.

While China has a history of looking to Africa for more mineral and natural resources and builds roads, bridges and infrastructure to facilitate the process, the U.S. has long been the top provider of humanitarian aid to help the continent fight HIV/AIDS and malaria and secure its agriculture.

The U.S. is hoping to turn a corner in its approach and make investments that will help Africa become more self-sustaining, while helping to build the continent into a more stable and attractive place for U.S. businesses to invest.

Obama has said he welcomes China’s investment in Africa, especially the role it has played in developing the continent’s infrastructure, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters before the summit began.

“At the same time, we do believe we bring something unique to the table,” Rhodes said. “We are less focused on resources from Africa and more focused on deepening trade and investment relationships.”

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