Columnists Features

Time for serious US-Africa partnership – Part II

IN continued collaboration between the US and Africa, another area the US can intervene is to strengthen weak institutional capacity, which poses a major obstacle to long-term economic growth and consequently sustainable economic development in Africa. For instance, the NEPAD Capacity Development Initiative, whose aim is to build the capacities of continental institutions in conjunction with the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the African Development Bank (AfDB) could leverage on America’s financial and technical support to enable it to focus on institutions of all types and at all levels that enhance the capacities of African countries to implement sound macroeconomic and social sector policies.
The ACBF, UNECA, and the AfDB could serve as the main institutions driving such a partnership at continental level. Africa could equally use US assistance in the area of human capital development, which is an engine of economic growth and sustained economic development and transformation.
Today, Africa’s urgent priority is to reduce poverty through strong and sustained economic development that benefits the poor and advances social services. Achieving human capital development is both critical and urgent for Africa’s development agenda, and the ACBF, which is already making positive contributions in this area, could be further assisted by the US to do more.
Trade expansion and broadening Africa’s exports base offer huge economic growth potentials to African countries and their foreign partners. However, the majority of the countries have not fully benefited from trade with the US. This is mainly because the US trades more with mineral-rich countries like Angola, Nigeria, and South Africa.
Also, African exports are less diversified and highly dependent on raw materials and simple processed products. To address this challenge, the AfDB helped to establish the Africa Trade Fund (AfTra) to provide financing facilities and advance trade and trade-related activities in Africa.
AfTra was set up in response to Africa’s need for greater integration into regional and global trading systems. The US-African partnership should aim to expand trade by investing in manufacturing, services, tourism, textile, and agriculture. Not only will this broaden the export base of African beneficiaries, it will equally help grow their industrial sector and create jobs for the army of unemployed. The review and extension of AGOA by the US Congress will doubtless bring great benefits to Africa.
It was heartening to hear President Obama during the summit indicate US desire to assist in this area. “I want Africans buying more American products. I want Americans buying more African products,” he told his guests.
Clearly, there is potential for export expansion among African countries which can further grow regional export performance, with the US as a potential market.
But US-Africa partnership should also aim at improving trade facilitation and capacity development, and the promotion of regional integration.
Finally, US investment inflows into Africa remain limited compared to China and the European Union. America needs to make strategic investments in infrastructure which is critical for a real and sustainable economic development of the continent.
Besides, American partnership could assist in lowering the cost of doing business in Africa which is still relatively high compared with other regions.
The involvement of the US in driving the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) – the continental strategy for modernising infrastructure at regional and continental levels – would greatly help to transform Africa’s poor infrastructure. PIDA’s focus is on transport, energy, trans-boundary water, and information communication technology infrastructure which are necessary if the continent is to be successfully integrated.
In conclusion, the slowdown in the global economy, including in the US, raises some implications for how the US should see Africa. One spin-off of the trend could be an Africa-US cooperation that is beneficial to both the world in general and the US in particular in the medium to long term.
Africa believes the US should see its economic development as an important tool in its quest to reignite its own economic growth and create jobs.
African countries, therefore, believe that Africa and the US should see Africa as part of the solution to the global economic crisis and invest in the continent for mutual benefit.
The world needs a new driver of consumer demand, a new market and a new dynamo. This driver can be Africa.
The author is the executive secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) in Harare, Zimbabwe.

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