Day 1 of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

World Today

Nearly 50 African leaders are gathering in Washington, D.C. beginning Aug. 3 for the the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the first such event of its kind. African leaders will have an opportunity to engage with President Barack Obama, his cabinet members, and other key leaders.

The Summit is geared towards fostering stronger ties between the United States and Africa, however Obama will not be meeting with any of the assembled leaders one-on-one.

The meetings will focus on expanding trade and investment ties, and they are also scheduled to touch on sustainable development, peace and security, and the futures of African youth. White House officials say the American interests in Africa are immense — the continent has one of the world’s fastest growing economies and a rapidly growing middle class. The U.S. is competing with China for these middle-class consumers, which in 2009 surpassed America as Africa’s largest trading partner.

Former U.S. diplomat to Africa Todd Moss: “We’re seeing this once-in-a-lifetime transition of people who are buying their first TV, fridge, car in the family,” Moss said. “That explosion in income and demand is going to create a tremendous amount of opportunity in consumer goods, energy, and services.”

As the conference begins Monday, the world’s attention are on a number of international crises, among them the situation in Gaza, Russia’s aggravations in Ukraine, and extremism in Iraq. An outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa also threatens to cast a shadow over the summit, with leaders from at least two affected countries canceling plans to travel to Washington. The U.S. has set up medical screenings for other officials arriving from affected nations. The president made a three-country trip to the continent last summer and aides say he’s likely to travel there again before the end of his second term. He launched an initiative that aims to bring electricity to 20 million households in sub-Saharan Africa by leveraging billions of dollars in private sector commitments. Obama also launched a fellowship program for young African leaders this year that received more than 50,000 applications for 500 slots.

U.S. officials are trying to draw a distinction between Chinese and American investment in Africa. “The African’s turn to the West for their security issues more than turning to China and that is different than when it comes to economics,” said Africa policy analyst Nii Akuettah, noting that African countries were increasingly turning to China for economic matters. The theme of the summit is “Investing in the Next Generation.”

This summit is an opportunity to discuss ways of stimulating growth, unlocking opportunities, and creating an enabling environment for the next generation. Click here to see the full schedule of the U.S.-Africa Leader Summit.

Information compiled from the Associated Press and the White House.


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