The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit: Final Thoughts

Editor’s Note: The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit blog series is a collection of posts discussing efforts to strengthen ties between the United States and Africa ahead of the first continent-wide summit. On August 4, Brookings will host “The Game Has Changed: The New Landscape for Innovation and Business in Africa,” at which these themes and more will be explored by prominent experts. Click here to register for the event.

The first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit is nearly upon us. Hopefully, the African leaders are already flying to Washington, D.C. with summit strategies in hand. Leading up to next week’s summit, Brookings experts have analyzed the many policy facets surrounding the United States’ strategy for regional engagement. Based on our comparison of the most recent Africa summits with the European Union, China and Japan, we recommend that the U.S. summit be designed to create a sustainable policy tool that is inclusive and accountable. Indeed, in his speech to the Ghanaian parliament in Accra in 2009 President Obama mentioned a need for a true partnership “grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect.”

Africa is a region that is increasingly gaining mutual respect from world partners. The real gross domestic product (GDP) in sub-Saharan Africa grew at a much faster rate than the GDP for the rest of the world over the past decade. Africa has made great strides in reducing poverty and mortality indicators—reflected in the proposed U.S. official development assistance (ODA) budget for fiscal year 2015, where the priorities for ODA have shifted from health and education to peace, security, governance and economic growth. The U.S. has increased its military presence in Africa and there is demand for foreign intervention to halt terrorism across the region; however, Americans are fatigued by interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thus, the summit can play a role to help Americans overcome their military lassitude to focus on governance, peace and security priorities in Africa.

In his Accra speech, Obama mentioned that the United States can do more to promote trade and investment in African countries. U.S. investors face an evolving landscape of foreign investment in Africa though total foreign direct investment (FDI) to Africa is still relatively low compared with world FDI totals in Asia. Now, China and other emerging market countries are driving growth in FDI to Africa. Meanwhile, the United States has a small presence of trade facilitation support on the ground in Africa compared to China. However, the U.S. trade preferences extended under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) have produced increased trade and investment in some African industries, such as textiles. The summit will also house the U.S. AGOA forum, a yearly event during which African leaders and U.S. officials review enhancements for the trade preference program and discuss a more cohesive strategy for AGOA beyond 2015.

As stated by Brookings Africa Growth Initiative Director Mwangi Kimenyi, it is necessary to define the parameters of a successful U.S.-Africa summit prior to the event. One indicator of particular importance to the Africa Growth Initiative is fruitful participation of Africa’s leaders in the summit. The U.S.-Africa summit is an unprecedented opportunity to transform U.S. strategy toward Africa into mutual U.S.-Africa strategy.

If you wish to engage with AGI experts and continue the dialogue surrounding the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, please watch the live webcast of the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative’s public event, “The Game Has Changed: The New Landscape for Innovation and Business in Africa,” on Monday, August 4. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter using #AfricaSummit.