24 July 2014
President Jacob Zuma will lead a South African delegation to the first United States-Africa Leaders’ Summit taking place in Washington on 5 and 6 August, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi said on Thursday.
Speaking to journalists in Pretoria following the Cabinet’s latest fortnightly meeting, Muthambi said the summit was expected to provide a boost for Africa’s regional integration initiatives, as well as for various African Union (AU) economic development programmes.
The White House made the announcement that US President Barack Obama would host the summit in January, saying that he looked forward to “further strengthen[ing] ties with one of the world’s most dynamic and fastest-growing regions.
“The summit will build on the progress made since the President’s trip to Africa last summer, advance the administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa, and highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people,” the White House said.
There will also be meetings of US and African CEOs, as well as an African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) ministerial meeting, both aimed at strengthening trade and investment between the US and Africa.
Agoa, which enables 39 eligible sub-Saharan African countries to export most products duty-free to the United States, has seen total African exports to the US more than quadruple, and US exports to sub-Saharan Africa more than triple, since its inception in 2000
In August, US Trade Representative Michael Froman told a two-day forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that the US was looking to work with African experts and leaders on forging an improved “Agoa 2.0” before the expiry of its current version in 2015.
Some members of the US Congress have questioned whether South Africa, being relatively developed in Africa, should continue to be included in Agoa. Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, speaking to journalists ahead of Obama’s visit to the country last June, argued against this view, saying it would be detrimental for the US market if South Africa were excluded.
“South Africa has been a beneficiary of Agoa, but we also think that Agoa is a very significant instrument to benefit the US, not least because it is a widely appreciated measure by the US, which builds the US a high degree of goodwill in its relations with other countries on the African continent,” Davies said.
Around 43% of South Africa’s exports, totalling to about $4.6-billion, have entered the US under the Agoa programme and this, according to Davies, has helped support the development of the economy, notably in manufacturing.
Elizabeth Thabethe, then deputy trade and industry minister – now deputy small business development minister – said at the time that Agoa should be developed into a programme that supported African integration more directly.
“This is where we need to be innovative in defining mechanisms that support Africa’s integration,” Thabethe said, adding that larger, more integrated African markets would underpin growth and development in Africa, which in turn would encourage growth in US trade and investment to Africa.
SAnews.gov.za and SAinfo reporter