By Amini Kajunju, President and CEO of The Africa-America Institute
Confirmation hearings on the nomination of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) as U.S. Secretary of State opened on January 24, where the likely Obama Administration cabinet head laid out his vision for U.S. foreign policy and engagement, including greater investment in Africa.
In prepared remarks, Sen. Kerry made reference to sub-Saharan Africa when he noted that American foreign policy and leadership was as much defined by “the push for development” and “fighting to lift up millions of lives by promoting freedom and democracy from Africa” as it is by flexing its military muscle.
A long supporter of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a U.S.-Africa trade policy, Sen. Kerry called for increasing U.S. investment and trade in Africa, warning that the U.S. is losing ground to China.
“China is all over Africa — I mean, all over Africa. And they’re buying up long-term contracts on minerals, on — I mean, you name it. And there’re some places where we’re not in the game, folks. And I hate to say it. And we got to get in. But it takes a little bit of resourcing. Believe me, somebody’s paying for those folks to be over there. And somebody’s investing in their investment of time,” Kerry said.
“We have to be prepared, because I think that what we bring to the table is, frankly, a lot more attractive than what a lot of other countries bring to the table. People like to do business with American businesses. People — we’re open, we’re accountable. We have freedom of creativity and other kinds of things. And I think that if we can organize ourselves more effectively in this sector we can win.”
Expanding trade and investment in Africa will help strengthen U.S.-Africa economic ties and bilateral co-operation, potentially leading to significant economic growth and prosperity on the African continent. Any trade bill must be mutually beneficial for both the United States and African nations and should ensure that African markets are not endangered.
Yet trade and investment initiatives for Africa will not succeed without substantial investments in developing Africa’s human resources. Greater investments in education and training have a proven track record of boosting a country’s economic growth rates and furthering development progress. For many decades, the State Department provided advanced and technical educational opportunities to African scholars. The Africa-America Institute has been a solid partner with the U.S. government in administering scholarships for talented Africans to earn advanced academic degrees in the U.S. and then return home to contribute to their countries development for more than 40 years. With more than 23,000 alumni worldwide, prominent AAI alumni include Wangari Maathai, the late Kenyan environmental and women’s rights activist and Nobel Laureate; Namibia’s Prime Minister H.E. Nahas Angula; and President Alassane Ouattara of Cote D’Ivoire.
Now in our 60th year, AAI continues the strong tradition of investing in African professionals through short- and long-term educational and leadership trainings on the continent.
A Kerry-led State Department must return to investing in an educated and skilled workforce to ensure that African professionals are able to fill high-level managerial, vocational, and technical positions to compete in a knowledge-based global economy. A strong, growing middle class and educated population in Africa will be poised to launch globally competitive businesses to fuel long-term growth as well as purchase U.S. consumer goods to reap the full benefits of the trade agreement.
To access AAI’s Priority Areas for the Obama Administration, please click here.