Monday, September 1, 2014

US-Africa Leadership Summit - Rethink Update August 2014

Rethink Update August 2014

August 2014
Dear Judy:
Last week, Washington hosted 46 African heads of state, hundreds of their cabinet-level ministers, and countless investors and business leaders at the first ever US-Africa Leaders Summit .The week was a flurry of activity, including formal and informal side events, a major business forum on Tuesday, and the heads of state summit itself on Wednesday. As a part of this, CGD hosted several African leaders for private discussions on a range of development topics, such as natural resource governance and infrastructure investment. As the dust settles from these events and gatherings, the Rethinking US Development Policy team has prepared a special-edition newsletter that captures many of the key highlights.
Throughout the week, Todd Moss and I had the opportunity to speak with a number of major media outlets about US economic and political relations with African nations. Todd focused on the region's dynamic growth over the last decade in two interviews with MSNBC, on The Cycle: Africa's Economies Rapidly Expanding and on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell: African Leaders Go to Washington. I spoke with the The Kojo Nnamdi Show about a wide range of regional issues, such as investment opportunities, business climate challenges, and how the Obama administration's engagement model has evolved over time.
In print, Todd Moss and Jeff Smith of the RFK Center called on President Obama to embrace Africa's Democratic Leaders for Al Jazeera America. In Roll Call, I explained how Congress's actions — through bipartisan legislation focused on addressing African energy poverty as well as the African Growth and Opportunity Act — are central to the Summit's prospects for lasting success. Todd also wrote about how Africa Is More Important Than Ever in USA Today.
Lastly, I recommend Erin Collinson's concise summary of the US-Africa Leaders Summit by the numbers. And if you still have appetite for more, you can always take another look at Todd's Watch List and make up your own mind on how the Summit proceedings measured up.
Although the Summit lifted the prominence of Africa in Washington policy discussions, only time will tell how long the increased attention will last. And ultimately, the Summit's long-term impact will be measured on whether the promised investments and initiatives come to fruition.
It was a pleasure seeing so many familiar and friendly faces around town last week. And as always, please stay in touch with any suggestions or comments.

Ben Leo
Director, Rethinking US Development Policy
Center for Global Development

Trade - African Growth and Opportunity Act

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The week before the Summit, Ben Leo testified to the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade about the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). He outlined six policy recommendations for Congress and the Obama Administration: 1) incentivize improvement to business environments; 2) make US trade capacity building more focused; 3) urge USTR to pursue more binding Bilateral Investment Treaties and less ineffectual Trade and Investment Framework Agreements; 4) increase support to regional economic communities; 5) protect funding for the Millennium Challenge Corporation which supports substantial US trade capacity building efforts; and 6) increase support for electricity and transport infrastructure through tools like the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the multilateral development banks. The testimony was based largely on Vijaya Ramachandran's and his recent policy paper (see related blogs on country eligibility and competitiveness constraints). Kimberly Elliott also has been looking at the AGOA reauthorization from an agricultural imports perspective, including a new policy note on AGOA's Final Frontier: Removing US Farm Trade Barriers.

Energy Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa - Power / Electrify / Energize Africa

During the US-Africa Summit, President Obama announced a tripling of his Power Africa initiative, which potentially could lead to an additional 300 million people gaining access to reliable and affordable electricity. Ben Leo and Todd Moss raised four questions about how this expansion will work. MCC also signed a new compact with Ghana focused entirely on the power sector making it the biggest US government Power Africa transaction to date. Although the expansion of Power Africa is reason to celebrate, Congress will need to institutionalize these efforts to ensure that the initiative lives beyond the current administration. The House has already passed the Electrify Africa Act, and its Senate counterpart, the Energize Africa Act, is awaiting floor action. Ben Leo recently spoke with Voice of America about the importance of the Energize Africa Act. Also, check out Todd Moss and Beth Schwanke's related Closing Africa's Energy Poverty Gap post on GE's Ideas Lab.

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