The measures included his signing of an Executive Order for the formation of a President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa.
“Our entire trade with all of Africa is still only about equal to our trade with Brazil. One country. Of all the goods we export to the world only about one percent goes to sub-Saharan Africa,” he explained.
Obama also increased the number of households and businesses in Africa it was targeting to reach with electricity, through the Power Africa initiative he launched in 2013, to 60,000.
“We’ve now mobilised a total of USD 26 billion to Power Africa just since we announced it. So today we’re raising the bar, we’re tripling our goal,” he announced following a Sh440 billion commitment from World Bank.
Obama also confirmed that US businesses, “many with our trade assistance,” were also planning on investing Sh1.2 trillion on the African continent in the areas of clean energy, aviation, banking and construction.
“Blackstone will invest in energy projects, Coca-Cola will partner with Africa to bring clean water to its communities, GE will help build infrastructure, Marriott will build more hotels,” Obama detailed.
Africans, Obama said, were keen to move beyond being recipients of aid and were keen to do business. And Americans, were keen to trade with Africa, on equal footing. “We don’t look to Africa simply for its natural resources,” he reiterated.
A number of US company Executives including General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt and The Carlyle Group David Rubenstein, had expressed the same sentiments as Obama during the US-Africa Business Forum that it was about time the US saw Africa as a serious economic partner. “We’ve left it to Europe and China,” Rubenstein observed.
Integration, Immelt and the ‘Richest man in Africa’ Aliko Dangote concurred, would go a long way in spurring US investment in Africa. “I need 37 visas to move around in Africa,” Dangote, who received a 10 year Visa to Kenya on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s orders last year, testified.
Former President Bill Clinton also agreed with Obama that the economic opportunities in Africa were too good for the US to pass up. “The US needs this relationship as much or more than the African business community.”