U.S. President Barack Obama hopes to spark American private investment in Africa during his three country trip to the continent alongside top U.S. executives. “The reason I came to Africa is because Africa is rising,” he told reporters during his trip. “We historically have been an enormous provider of aid to Africa—food, medicine—but what I want us to do is have a shift in paradigm, where we start focusing on trade, development, partnerships,” Mr. Obama said. “This is going to be a continent that is on the move. It is young, it is vibrant and full of energy,” he said.
The hope is that his visit will help bolster American presence on the continent at a time when countries like China, India and Brazil are significantly increasing their investment in the region.
“We shouldn’t view the participation of a country like China or Brazil in Africa as a bad thing,” Obama told reporters as he journeyed from Senegal to South Africa. “It should be a signal to us, though, that there’s great opportunity there and that we cannot afford to be left on the sidelines because we’re still stuck with old stereotypes about what Africa’s future is going to be.”
A snapshot of the state of the U.S.’ trade with Africa
Obama noted that he has been working on pitching Africa as a stable region in hopes of attracting more U.S. investment from American corporations.
“This is a message I’m delivering consistently – is ensure that there’s stability and good governance so that American companies can reduce some of those risks that have nothing to do with business and have to do with will they be able to get their profits out, will they have to pay a bribe, will they have to find ways to negotiate with bureaucracies endlessly.”
President Obama also emphasized the U.S.’ commitment to viewing the continent as a partner and not as a dependent.
“I think everything we do is designed to make sure that Africa is not viewed as a dependent, as a charity case, but is instead viewed as a partner,” he said.
He also noted that African Governments likely prefer the United States’ approach to engaging with the continent in contrast to trade partners such as China.
“[Africans] recognize that China’s primary interest is being able to obtain access for natural resources in Africa to feed the manufacturers in export-driven policies of the Chinese economy. Oftentimes that leaves Africa as simply an exporter of raw goods” as opposed to creating long-term jobs, he said.
During his visit to South Africa, President Obama had hoped to meet anti apartheid icon and former South African President, Nelson Mandela however he was unable to due to Mandela’s ill health. “He’s a personal hero, but I don’t think I’m unique in that regard,” said Mr. Obama. “I think he’s a hero for the world, and if and when he passes from this place, I think we all know his legacy is one that will carry on throughout the ages.”
More photos from Obama’s three country Africa visit