WASHINGTON — Seeking to strengthen America's financial foothold in Africa, President Barack Obama announced $33 billion in commitments Tuesday aimed at shifting U.S. ties with Africa beyond humanitarian aid and toward more equal economic partnerships.
The bulk of the commitments came from private sector companies, including Coca-Cola and General Electric, underscoring Africa's growing appeal to businesses. The continent is home to six of the world's fastest-growing economies and a rapidly expanding middle class with increased spending power.
Yet Obama noted that U.S. trade with the entire African continent is about the same as its trade ties with Brazil and that just about 1 percent of U.S. exports go to sub-Saharan Africa.
"We've got to do better, much better," he said during closing remarks at a daylong session that brought together U.S. and African politicians and business leaders. "I want Africans buying more American products and I want Americans buying more African products."
The United States is hardly alone in seeing economic potential in Africa, with China, Europe and India moving aggressively to tap into Africa's growing markets.
The business forum is part of an unprecedented three-day summit under way in Washington, with nearly 50 African heads of state in attendance. Obama and his wife, Michelle, hosted the leaders at a White House dinner Tuesday night.
In conjunction with the meeting, U.S. companies announced $14 billion in investments for Africa. The White House touted an additonal $12 billion in new commitments for Obama's Power Africa initiative from the private sector, World Bank and Sweden. Obama also announced $7 billion in new government financing to promote U.S. exports to and investments in Africa.