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On the Record

Increasing Capital Flows to Africa

I am pleased to share with you some thinking that several colleagues and I have done recently on Increasing Capital Flows to Africa. I was proud to serve on a distinguished Commission led by Former Export-Import Bank Chairman and Wall Street financier, Jim Harmon. The Commission’s membership included twenty-eight leaders from North America, Asia, Europe and Africa with exceptional experience in business, finance, government, academia, non-governmental organizations and international institutions.

We deliberated intensively and issued our final report in June, entitled a “Ten Year Strategy for Increasing Capital Flows to Africa.”

What I’d like to do now is review in some detail its main premises and conclusions. With your indulgence and the permission of our Chairman, I will borrow liberally from the text of the report. Then, I will briefly give you a sense of some other thinking going on in Washington on this topic and, finally, touch on some possible next steps for advocates and U.S. policymakers.

Let me begin with the context. Despite its 800 million people and vast natural resources, Africa’s potential is frequently overshadowed by crises, conflicts and chronic poverty. As a result, it is not a primary destination for global and, especially, American, capital. But without significant amounts of new capital, Africa’s development objectives will not be achieved.

Africa is a continent with great challenges, tremendous opportunities and unappreciated accomplishments. Since 1990, for example, 42 of 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have held multi-party elections, and most Africans today have the right to choose their leaders at the ballot box. On the other hand, Africa has fallen behind the rest of the developing world in many dimensions of development. Life expectancy has decreased and the average African is poorer today than he or she was two decades ago. The number of people living in poverty has also increased steadily during the past 20 years. Though it represents more than 10 percent of the world’s population, Africa attracts less than one percent of all international private investment.

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