Posted by on August 11, 2014 in Blog
By Hanane Lahnaoui
Summer Intern, 2014
The 2014 U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC last week brought together leaders from across the African continent, including North Africa. A recent initiative launched by President Obama after his visit to the African continent last summer, the summit was the first of its kind to welcome African leaders to the nation’s capital. The summit focused mainly on trade and investment as well as development, security and the relationships between the U.S. and the African nations.
The event was a chance for the U.S. to enhance its engagement with the African states that attended and discuss potential business and trade opportunities. The three-day summit included a variety of events which consisted of a U.S. Africa Business Forum, an African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum and summit leader meetings. The summit also discussed topics such as investing in women, peace, prosperity and health: investing in Africa’s future.
President Obama extended his invitation to about fifty heads of states from the African continent in addition to the chairperson of the African Union. The North African countries of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia were all invited to attend.
Egypt was initially left off the invitation list because of its suspension from the African Union due to “last year's military overthrow of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood-led government.” However, the United States extended an invitation to Egypt after it was readmitted into the African Union. President Abdel Fatah Al Sisi was not in attendance. Instead, Ibrahim Mahlab, the Prime Minister of Egypt, led the country’s mission to the summit. Moreover, the Prime Ministers of Morocco, Algeria and Libya: Abdelilah Benkirane, Abdelmalek Sellal, Abdullah Al-Thinni respectively all attended the summit in addition to the President of Tunisia, Mr. Moncef Marzouki.
The Summit was a great opportunity for the North African leaders to meet their counterparts and discuss future business and trade opportunities among their countries. For instance, the Egyptian and Algerian prime ministers discussed opportunities of exchange between the two countries and way in which Egypt can benefit from Algeria’s gas production.
The growing economic relationships between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa were also a part of last week’s discussions. North African countries are no longer only prioritizing the European market; rather they are reaching out to their southern neighbors. With the growing economies of the North African states, the Maghreb is increasingly in need of diversification and expansion. In fact, between 2009 and 2012, the Maghreb almost doubled its exports to Sub-Saharan Africa from $1 billion to $2 billion.
The Maghreb is continually implementing new strategies to engage with Sub-Saharan Africa, from Morocco’s King Mohamed VI’s visit to Sub-Saharan countries and signing of bilateral agreements, to Tunisia’s work with the African Development Bank to foster trade and investments. Meanwhile, Algeria’s private sector is seeking new opportunities in the south and focusing $5 billon for its “Africa focused Sovereign Wealth Fund.”
The 2014 U.S. Africa Leaders Summit was an important opportunity for the attendees, particularly the countries in North Africa facing monumental political and economic change since 2011. The summit is an important step in creating business ties that will foster development between Africa and the United States and within the continent itself.
On Tuesday, August 5th, President Obama announced that the next Global Entrepreneurship summit will be held in Marrakech, Morocco in November. Morocco will then be the first African country to host this summit. This summit illustrates the importance of entrepreneurship and exchanges between regional and international entrepreneurs and business leaders.
President Bush and Mrs. Bush also took part of the U.S. Africa Summit. They were both part of an event Michelle Obama and President Bush organized for the spouses of the African Leaders, which focused on health, girls’ education and other topics important to the continent.
The United States’ relationship with Africa will not only be limited to aid and assistance, but will rather expand to business deals that will benefit both parties. As the assistant secretary of African affairs, Linda Thomas Greenfield described it, this summit “is not a donor conference” but an opportunity for the African heads of states to network with each other and with American leaders to heighten the economic ties between the nations.
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