White House: US firms to invest billions in Africa

American businesses have committed to invest more than $14 billion in the African economy, President Obama will announce Tuesday at the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington.

The announcement, which will come during the president’s keynote address, includes investments in construction, clean energy, banking and information technology, a White House official said.

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“These investments will deepen U.S. economic engagement in Africa, fueling growth that will support broader African prosperity and emerging markets for U.S. businesses, which will support jobs in both the United States and Africa,” the official said.

The commitments far exceed the $900 million in investments Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker previewed at a Wall Street Journal event late last month.

The president is also expected to participate in a roundtable discussion with CEOs and government leaders, including former President Clinton, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Pritzker. The billionaire mayor’s charity is co-sponsoring the event, which has drawn more than 300 government and business leaders to Washington.

The presidential appearances are expected to headline the day’s economic events, designed as a way to connect African officials and corporate executives. The White House hopes that the forum can promote trade, accelerate job growth and encourage infrastructure investment in Africa.

Obama has made countering Chinese investment on the continent a priority in his second term. During a three-nation tour of Africa last summer, the president said the U.S. could not “afford to be left on the sidelines because we’re still stuck with old stereotypes about what Africa’s future is going to be.” He also announced a public-private partnership to build out the power grid throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

“In my discussions, a lot of people are pleased that China is involved in Africa,” Obama said. “On the other hand, they recognize that China’s primary interest is being able to obtain access for natural resources in Africa to feed the manufacturers in export-driven policies of the Chinese economy. And oftentimes that leaves Africa as simply an exporter of raw goods, not a lot of value-added — as a consequence, not a lot of jobs created inside of Africa, and it does not become the basis for long-term development.”

On Monday, Vice President Biden encouraged African leaders to root out corruption in their countries in a bid to improve economic stability.

“It’s a cancer in Africa as well as around the world. Widespread corruption is an affront to the dignity of its people, and a direct threat to each of your nations’ stability,” Biden said.

“In your hands, with your help, Africa can and will go so much further. You’re the fastest growing economies in the world and quite frankly the success of the rest of the world depends in part on your success,” the vice president added.

On Tuesday night, the president and first lady will host a dinner at the White House for the 40 African heads of state visiting the U.S. for the forum.

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