Obama tells business roundtable: Africa next economic success story

July 1, 2013 at 4:02 PM
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DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, July 1 (UPI) -- Calling Africa the world's "next major economic success story," President Obama said the United States want to share in that success.

"This is the final leg of my visit to Africa. And at every stop, one of my main messages has been that, even as this continent faces great challenges, this is also a moment of great promise for Africa," Obama told business officials at a roundtable meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

He said he also was visiting Africa because, in a global economy, countries' fortunes are linked as never before.

"So more growth and opportunity in Africa can mean more growth and opportunity in the United States," Obama said.

He called Africa the world's "next major economic success story. And the United States wants to be a partner in that success."

Progress has been made in getting global investment and businesses in Africa, as well as trade, he said.

But more can and should be done, the president said.

"Today, the vast majority of our trade with Africa is with just three countries -- South Africa, Nigeria and Angola. We need to broaden that," Obama said. "We need to make sure more Africans are taking advantage of the opportunity to export to the United States. And one of the best ways to do that is to make sure more African goods can compete in the global marketplace. And that means more opportunities for small and medium-sized companies, and entrepreneurs, and merchants and farmers, including women."

But the real answer to "unlocking the next era of African growth is not in Washington, it's here in Africa," he said.

First, he said, African governments must take the lead to implement the reforms necessary to create a vibrant market economy and business environment, he said.

"We know that strengthening good governance is good business as well -- and this is something that I've been emphasizing throughout my tour," he said. "No one should have to pay a bribe to start a business or ship their goods."

"We also know that unleashing Africa's economic potential demands more access to electricity. That's how businesses keep the light on," Obama said, explaining the Power Africa initiative to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa.

He also spoke of another new initiative, Trade Africa, to boost trade with and within Africa, starting with the East African Community.

"As part of this effort, we'll negotiate a regional investment treaty with the EAC. We'll launch a new program to facilitate trade by focusing on moving goods across borders faster and cheaper," Obama said as he outlined the initiative's goals. "We'll work with the countries involved to modernize customs, move to single more efficient border crossings, reduce bottlenecks, reduce the roadblocks that stymie the flow of goods to market."

Finally, he said, newly confirmed Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker will lead a trade mission to Africa, and his treasury and energy secretaries would travel to Africa as well.

"And the bottom line is this: I want to make sure we're doing everything we can to encourage the new growth we're seeing across Africa, and more trade between our countries," Obama told the business executives.

Obama visit to Tanzania is the final stop of his three-country trip to Africa, after stops in Senegal and South Africa.

The street sign in front of the State House in Dar es Salaam read "Barack Obama Drive" in honor of the American president.

On Tuesday, President Obama will be joined by former President George W. Bush at the wreath-laying ceremony at the U.S. Embassy, marking the 1998 coordinated bombings of U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in which 223 people died and more than 4,000 were wounded. Eleven of the deaths were at the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam.

The White House said first lady Michelle Obama would be joining her predecessor, Laura Bush, at the African First Ladies Summit in Tanzania Tuesday.

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