Africa Summit Touts Investment-Friendly Continent

A three-day summit of African heads of state and U.S. officials in Washington, D.C., aims to promote foreign investment in the continent.
Posted at 1:01 PM, Aug 04, 2014

​Admittedly, the headlines coming out of Africa this summer have been pretty bleak.

"The deadly Ebola virus in West Africa has killed more than 670 people." (Via NBC

"Terrorists have struck again in East Africa." (Via PBS

"The president of Nigeria is blaming Boko Haram for twin car bombings." (Via CBS)

This week, heads of state from nearly 50 African countries hope to change that. They're in Washington for a three-day summit with American business leaders and administration officials — the first meeting of its kind.

The U.S. is expected to announce billions of dollars in business deals and funding in Africa during the event. (Via Al Jazeera

But Jonathan Berman, author of "Success in Africa," told NPR the summit has another, more subtle objective. That is, changing the narrative about the continent from "war, disease and poverty to one of hope, aspiration and opportunity."

There's a reason for the perception, says Ghana's president. John Dramani Mahama told Fortune all of Africa's 54 sovereign nations tend to get lumped together. "So if you hear there's a war in Central African Republic it means all of Africa is aflame."

​And true, when lumped together, those 54 nations make up the world’s poorest continent. But Africa has quietly racked up a few other titles that analysts have made it an attractive destination for foreign investors. 

It's considered "the world's fastest-growing continent." (Via The Economist

USA Today says by 2040, Africa will have the "largest global workforce."

And from The Wall Street Journal"Consumer Spending Expected to Double by 2020."

The world's second-biggest economy has taken notice. China is now outpacing the U.S. when it comes to trade with Africa. (Via CCTV

Investment, not foreign assistance, should be the U.S.' top priority, says Sen. Chris Coons, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs. He wrote in an op-ed for CNN"Africa will emerge as the next great growth market and opportunity of the 21st century, and China will not miss 'the next China.' America shouldn't either."

Observers speculate the summit may be at least partially driven by a desire to compete with China for influence in Africa. But at the same time, the White House has said don't expect any major commitments to Africa out of the summit. 

The Los Angeles Times offers one explanation for this: "[It] probably reflects Obama's effort to bolster his record on Africa, which thus far has been a disappointment to Africans who expected the son of a Kenyan to transform U.S. relations and deliver a flood of aid and assistance.”

"I can promise you this: America will be with you every step of the way."


Unlike his predecessors, Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Obama doesn't have his own major policy initiative in Africa to speak of. (Via The White House

He has, however, launched a program offering fellowships to 500 young African leaders each year.