United States Vice-President Joe Biden, in a remark at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum on Tuesday , spoke about why America cannot do without Africa and vice versa.
America isexcited about the prospects of Africa, because Africa present — possesses two incredible resources: an overwhelming abundance of natural resources, and the resources of its people. And both — both its people and its natural resources warrant significant investment and development.
I’d like to focus just for a moment on the people. As I said when I spoke yesterday at the African Civil Society meeting, the people of Africa and their leaders are attempting to
tackle the establishment of sound political and economic institutions; the creation of wealth that reaches beyond the elite to provide people with economic opportunity throughout the — the continent, including women and girls; forging a peace in some countries still torn apart; protection of the health of your citizens. And you all — you all know the great talent that exists in Africa, but turning that talent, even in a greater capability, requires significant commitment and significant investment. But if Africa’s governance and institutions can put its people in a position commensurate with their possibilities, the sky’s the limit. I mean, it is limitless. There’s no reason the nation of Africa cannot and should not join the ranks of the world’s most prosperous nations in the near-term, in the decades ahead. There is simply no reason.
As we look to the future to try to help realize that vision, the question is no longer — when I got here as a young man as a young senator on the Foreign Relations Committee, the question always was asked, “What can we do for Africa?” That’s no longer the question. It’s, “What can we do with Africa,” not what can we do for Africa. What can we do together?
What can we do together? And I mean that. The president means it as well. I believe there’s a significant opportunity for the United States and Africa to do more that benefit both of our peoples. This is America’s economic self-interest. Fifty — $50 billion in U.S. exports to Africa already support a quarter of a million American jobs right here in the United States. Africa — African consumers are spending $1.3 trillion, and that’s projected to double by the year 2030. At the same time, AGOA, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, has allowed more than 6,400 African products to reach American customers duty-free, supporting African jobs and industries range — ranging from vehicles to vegetables. Since 2010, non-oil exports from sub-Saharan Africa to the United States have almost quadrupled. I see no reason why — and this is not hyperbole — I see no reason why trade and investments between the United States and Africa should not double or triple or even quadruple in the decades ahead. But to get there, each of us has a whole lot of work to do. And no one knows that better than the people and, particularly, the heads of state sitting in this audience. To start, American businesses have to show up. My dad used to say to me as a young man, he said, “Joey, half of winning is just showing up.” American businesses have to show up, and they are showing up. And they’re doing it in greater and greater numbers to compete alongside India and Chinese, European companies for African trade and investment. It’s sort of stamped into our DNA. We like to compete. We welcome the competition. But because it is not just how much we trade and invest that matters; it’s how we do it. We can always do better, but the United States is proud of the extent to which our investment in Africa goes hand-in-hand with our efforts to hire and train locals to foster economic development and not just to extract what’s in the ground; to protect human rights, labor rights; and protect the environment; to create new opportunities for women and girls.
A famous columnist here in the United States says women are half the sky. They are half the sky. And to win contracts and friends on the merits, not through kick-backs or bribes. This can be hard when others cut corners, but we believe it’s absolutely worth it, not only to help growth, but also to ingrain a set of rules of the road that are fair and decent to all competitors. Because the ties we are building are ties that have to last. The rules we’re advancing are rules that will benefit us all, and the prosperity we are promoting is prosperity we can sustain together if we do it correctly at the front end.
The United States government has a great deal of work to do as well to help realize the full promise of this moment. And you’ll hear about that from many other U.S. officials, particularly one that will be following me in an hour and a half or so who I just left, the president of the United States. We’re working with the United States Congress to renew AGOA before it expires next year. We’re working to connect more African companies with American businesses and the United States is also providing more direct support to make trade and investment easier.
Our Export-Import Bank financed a record $1.7 billion in exports to Africa over the past 10 years. We should do more. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, OPIC, has financed nearly $3 billion in projects across Africa under President Obama and every dollar invested by OPIC as sparked on average $2.66 in additional private sector investment.
The U.S. Trade and Development Agency has funded over 100 projects expected to generate over $1 billion in U.S. exports while building up the infrastructure of sub-Saharan Africa.
In each of these areas, President Obama will announce, very shortly, significant new initiatives.
We’re also focused on energy. I need not tell this audience two thirds of Africans still regularly go without electricity.
If we can help you power Africa, that will empower the people of Africa to grow their economies. That’s why, under President Obama’s leadership, as he will discuss later today, the United States is helping to mobilise private investment and offer financing to help Americans provide for — excuse me, to help Africans provide for yourselves clean and affordable and abundant electricity, which is badly needed.
Today, the United States will sign a $500 million Millennium Challenge Corporation compact with Ghana to strengthen its – its energy sector…
When the World Bank ranked the 50 most improved countries with respect to efficient business regulations, 20 of them, 20 of the 50, were in Africa, including the most — the most improved environment in the world: Rwanda.
We all know there’s a great deal more work to do, but we all know the way to get it done. It’s hard, but we know the path. We know that in the unforgiving daylight of the global economy, investments can and will go elsewhere when it sees excessive regulation, a broken judiciary, or widespread corruption.
I’m optimistic about my own country. You know, I have traveled about a million miles just since being vice president, and I don’t think there’s a major leader in the world I haven’t met over the last 30 years, just because of my job, not my consequence. And I’m reminded by some world leaders what I have told them in the past, and
I say it again, it’s never, never, ever been a good bet to bet against America. It has never, ever been a good bet to bet against America.
And America is betting on Africa. The idea — the idea and the reality are just tantalising. The possibilities are immense. We’re betting on each other, Africa on America and America on Africa, and what we can accomplish together for the enormous benefit of our people.