US rolls out African campaign to woo American investors

US President Barack Obama

…as Obama says many US businesses unaware of prospects in Africa

The US government November 28, 2012 launched an initiative known as “Doing Business in Africa” (DBIA), a campaign to help American businesses identify and seize opportunities in Africa.

The campaign is expected to further the US’ commercial and trade relationship with Africa.

The initiative was launched by the Acting US Secretary of Commerce, Dr. Rebecca Blank, in South Africa.

According to a White House note signed by President Barack Obama in support of the DBIA campaign, many businesses in the US are not aware of the prospects presented by Africa.

“Many American entrepreneurs and business leaders are unaware of the tremendous trade and investment prospects in sub-Saharan Africa or face challenges establishing business relationships in the region,” Obama wrote in the note.

Obama believes that the DBIA campaign will however change American’s lack of awareness of the continent’s prospect by “increasing the awareness about key sectors and markets in sub-Saharan Africa and opportunities to expand trade activities”.

In her remarks during the launching, Dr. Blank indicated that her Department has a powerful network of US-based Export Assistance Centers as well as Commercial Service Officers in strategic embassies worldwide and through this campaign, “we are going to train these counselors on how to help businesses start or expand their exports to Africa.”

“We will also ensure that these counselors have timely information about new opportunities that are arising on this continent,” Dr Blank added.

The US Commerce Chief also outlined that the Department will for the first time ever, partner with the State International Development Organisation to train economic development leaders at the state and regional levels in the US with a special focus on the opportunities and possibilities for doing business in Africa.

The DBIA campaign is said to be Obama’s first major African initiative since he was re-elected as President of the US on November 7, 2012.

Obama, in June 2012 signed a Presidential Policy Directive unveiling a new US strategic plan for sub-Saharan Africa. It focused on democracy, economic growth, peace and development.

A White House statement said the new plan known as “US Strategy Toward sub-Saharan Africa” commits the US to a “forward-looking strategy in which we will work closely with our African partners” to advance the prosperity, security, and dignity that citizens deserve.”

Total trade volumes between the US and sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) shot up in 2011 by almost 18%, according to statistics from the International Trade Administration (ITA) of the US Department of Commerce.

Both US exports to the region, and imports from SSA increased during the year.

US exports to SSA in 2011 increased by 23% and reached $21 billion while imports from SSA were up nearly 14% to hit $74.2 billion.

By Ekow Quandzie

Listen to Dr Blank’s remarks on the DBIA campaign

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