U.S., Africa firms seal $15 billion of deals at Washington summit

American and African firms reached more than $15 billion in new commitments and deals at a summit hosted by President Joe Biden as the US moves to increase its commercial ties with the continent through investments rather than aid.  

The commitments cover sustainable energy, health systems, agribusiness, digital connectivity, infrastructure, and finance, the White House said in a statement Wednesday.

Presidents from more than 40 African nations are in Washington for the three-day summit, the first of its kind in eight years. The US is trying to deepen its ties with the continent as it competes for influence with rivals China, Africa’s largest trading partner and bilateral creditor, and Russia, which has successfully strengthened relations with the region in recent months as western nations tried to isolate it over its invasion of Ukraine.

The US government has helped close more than 800 two-way trade and investment deals across 47 African countries for a total estimated value of over $18 billion, and the American private sector has closed investment deals in the continent valued at $8.6 billion since 2021, the White House said. 

Some of the initiatives emerging from the summit’s business forum include: 

  • At least $170 million by Prosper Africa — the US government initiative to increase trade with the continent — to boost exports to the US by $1 billion over the next five years, and mobilize another $1 billion in US investment in Africa.
  • Cisco Systems Inc., the biggest maker of machines that run computer networks and the internet, is partnering with Cybastion, a diaspora-owned small business, for $800 million in new contracts to protect African countries from cyber threats.
  • The US-Africa Clean Tech Energy Network — a partnership between Prosper Africa and the US Agency for International Development’s Power Africa initiative — to facilitate up to $350 million investment in clean-tech energy companies within the next five years.
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The Office of the US Trade Representative also signed a memorandum of understanding with the secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area “to support institutions to accelerate sustainable economic growth across the continent,” the White House said. 

The AfCFTA — which would be the world’s biggest free-trade zone by area when it kicks into full gear in 2030 — became operational in January last year and has a potential market of 1.3 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of $2.6 trillion.  

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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