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U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit opens doors for growth

By Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr./NNPA Columnist
On August 18, 2014

President Obama addresses Africa’s leaders at a summit in D.C.
Credit: Pete Souza/

The importance of President Obama’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit held in D.C. should not be underestimated. This is an historic event for all Americans, but especially for 45 million Black Americans who all are directly or indirectly descended from Africa.

Because of the politically polarized atmosphere in Washington, D.C., whatever initiative President Obama attempts to launch is met with the usual conservative or racially motivated attacks on his leadership, motives or accomplishments. Yet, the sheer magnitude of 45 to 50 African heads of state, along with their respective ministers, will indeed significantly improve the public perception in America about Africa’s past, present and future.

Beyond helping to change some of the negative stereotypes about Africa, the U.S. - Africa Leaders Summit has the potential to provide new business opportunities. 

In fact, there were multibillion-dollar investment deals on the summit table for consideration. There were also summit-related opportunities to work on sustainable, collaborative business ventures, joint economic development projects, and increased international trade relationships with Africa.

The theme of the summit was “Investing in the Next Generation.” According to a statement issued by the White House, “This Summit, the largest event any U.S. President has held with African heads of state and government, will build on the President’s trip to Africa in the summer of 2013 and it will strengthen ties between the United States and one of the world’s most dynamic and fastest growing regions.” 

“I do not see the countries and peoples of Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world – partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children. That partnership must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect,” stated President Obama.

Of course, mutual responsibility and respect cannot be something that just lasts a few days in Washington. The real test will be what happens after each African leader returns home. What will be the follow up? How will millions of people in Africa benefit from the summit?

“We chose to do this summit to send a very clear signal that we are elevating our engagement with Africa. We see enormous opportunities in Africa as it continues to advance its own economic development and continues to develop its capabilities as African countries as security and democratic partners of the United States,” said Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, in a telephone call with reporters.

He added, “What the United States has done in all of our signature development programs – on food and power and health – is not just provide assistance to Africa, but build African capacity so that public health sectors are empowered to meet challenges on the continent; so that through our Power Africa initiative we are bringing electricity to the continent in a way that will foster development and integration with the global economy; and through our food security initiative we are building the capacity of the agricultural sector within Africa to feed populations and also to foster economic growth.”

One thing is certain: the potential today for more economic development opportunity and progress in Africa is tremendous. In the wake of the U.S.- Africa Leaders Summit, I believe Black Americans in particular should independently reach out to Africa to establish long term, mutually beneficial relationships.

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