US-Africa summit hugely positive: Davies

12 August 2014

South Africa, and the continent as a whole, benefited immensely from the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit held in Washington last week, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said on Tuesday.

“By and large, there are a lot of positive things we gained from the summit,” Davies told reporters in Pretoria. “The message from all of us was that the African continent needs to industrialise, and there were a lot of echoes in that regard.”

Davies said the major victory from the summit was the commitment by US President Barack Obama to support the renewal of the African Growth and Opportunities Act (Agoa), along with his announcement of investments in Africa to the tune of US$33-billion through the Doing Business in Africa programme.

More than 40 African heads of state, including President Jacob Zuma, attended the summit, which focused on peace and security as well as trade between Africa and the world’s economic giant.

On the renewal of Agoa, Minister Davies said the summit provided an indication that the US believed a lengthy re-authorisation of Agoa was justified.

“They are looking at possibilities of improving Agoa. They said they are looking at the eligibility criteria … They are looking at countries that did not qualify … I think that was the message from our side that was pretty good news.”

Congress is scheduled to vote on the renewal of Agoa, whose current term expires in next year. Obama last week said he was confident that Congress would back the renewal of the scheme, which enables eligible sub-Saharan African countries to export most products duty-free to the United States.

South Africa is the only country that makes extensive use of the tariff trade preferences provided by the US through Agoa and other schemes.

Meanwhile, Davies said there were a lot of partnerships that South Africa can build with Hollywood studios to grow the local film industry. The minister paid a visit to Hollywood during a stopover in Los Angeles last week, visiting Disney and 20th Century Fox, among other big names in the film industry.