WASHINGTON, (The Southern African Times) – U.S. president, Joe Biden will announce a new push on Tuesday to expand business ties between American companies and Africa, with a focus on building essential digital, health and physical infrastructure on the continent, a senior U.S. official said.
U.S. industry executives welcome the interest but say dollar flows will lag unless the Biden administration ends its lengthy review of former President Donald Trump’s trade measures and a clear policy on investments in liquefied natural gas.
Dana Banks, Africa’s senior director at the White House National Security Council, will launch a US-Africa business summit with a pledge to “re-imagine” and revive a prosperous Africa, an initiative unveiled by the Trump Administration in 2018.
President Biden, who requested about $80 million for the initiative in his budget proposal in May, aims to focus the initiative on women and equity, with an expanded role for small and medium-sized businesses.
Banks said the Biden administration’s goal was to “reinvent prosperous Africa as the centerpiece of American economic and commercial engagement with Africa,” with more details to be released soon on a companion initiative called Digital Africa.
“This is an area that is a priority both at home and abroad,” Banks said, adding that African countries were eager to expand their cooperation with the United States and its companies.
U.S. trade officials warned that the United States was at risk of being overtaken by China and Europe, which are already investing and concluding trade agreements across the continent.
“We can’t wait another year to prepare Africa policy, we need to be bold in our thinking,” said Scott Eisner, president of the US-Africa Business Center at the US Chamber of Commerce.
Eisner said many companies had begun investing in Kenya in the wake of the Trump administration’s talks with Kenya on a bilateral free trade agreement, but that those plans were on ice until the Biden review of that policy was completed.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office did not immediately comment on the status of the review.
Another obstacle is the uncertainty about the administration’s policy on LNG projects.
Nigeria and other countries are eager to secure US investment in such plans, but are waiting to see whether the administration will support LNG investment, even if it seeks to halve US fossil-fuel emissions.
U.S. LNG exports have increased under Biden. Experts say the United States will need to stop building natural gas power plants and export LNG to meet Biden’s goal of curbing fossil fuel emissions.
Biden’s policies are energy-neutral, and administration officials have remained silent about any specific plans on LNG investment. The US Development Finance Corporation did not immediately comment on its policy on supporting LNG projects.