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U.S. Government Promotes Private Investment in Africa

By MacKenzie C. Babb | Staff Writer | 23 February 2012
Secretary Clinton delivering remarks from behind podium (State Dept.)

Clinton highlights the importance of foreign investment as part of her economic statecraft agenda in remarks to the Global Business Conference at the State Department.

Washington — The U.S. government is promoting economic growth in Africa through public-private investment and development projects, says Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs William Fitzgerald.

“The United States is ready to do business in Africa in a much bigger way,” Fitzgerald said at the Washington Foreign Press Center February 22. He said now is a great time for both U.S. and international companies to invest in sustainable development across Africa.

“There’s a palpable sense of opportunity,” Fitzgerald said. He added that increasing foreign investment in Africa would create a significant number of local jobs and have far-reaching effects on countries’ economies. “You’re going to see employment levels increasing and reaching record highs, and part and parcel with that, you’ll also see education improving, health care and clinics improving; it’s just a very exciting time.”

Fitzgerald’s remarks followed his participation in a State Department–led energy trade mission to Mozambique, Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana February 6–17. The delegation of U.S. government officials, led by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, was joined by private sector executives who met with host country senior government officials and business leaders to discuss energy infrastructure projects, such as investments in power generation and fuel supplies. The trip was co-sponsored by the Corporate Council for Africa, a private organization that brings together potential business partners and seeks to raise Africa’s profile for American investors.

In remarks ahead of the mission, Jim Wilson, senior coordinator for trade promotion and commercial policy in the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, said the trip was critical because of the significant constraints the lack of reliable electricity places on African development. Fitzgerald agreed, calling power availability in many parts of Africa “woefully inadequate.”

To improve this as quickly as possible, Wilson said, the State Department established a specific requirement for potential private investors seeking to participate: trip delegates had to come from companies in a position to rapidly move forward with investments to help meet the challenge of providing reliable, affordable electricity for Africa.

Businesses represented on the mission included Anadarko Petroleum, Caterpillar, Chevron, Energy International, General Electric, Pike Enterprises, Strategic Urban Development Alliance LLC, Symbion and Zanbato Group.

Fitzgerald’s remarks came as part of the State Department’s first Global Business Conference, held in Washington February 21–22. The event brought together business representatives from more than 100 countries to discuss how the U.S. government can help them succeed in investing abroad.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the private sector leaders that the United States government is working on their behalf to tackle obstacles to participating in foreign markets, such as corruption, red tape and “outdated protectionist policies.”

“We want to come with you as we open new markets and create new opportunities for jobs and investments,” Clinton said in remarks to the group February 21. “So when you confront unfair regulations, when you need help cutting through red tape, or if you just want advice on local customs, come to us.” She said the United States is committed to a global economic system that is open, free, transparent and fair — one in which every company, big or small, has a chance to succeed.

“We’re standing up for an economic system that benefits everyone,” she said.

Participants in the conference included senior officials representing the White House, departments of State, Commerce, Treasury and Energy, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.