USA models sustainable economic partnership in East Africa

While the BRICS, European and Middle Eastern countries have contributed tremendously in jumpstarting the hailed African economic progress, East Africa welcomes the United States to be a part of this history because there is a reservoir of goodwill that America enjoys on the continent.
Isaac Sebakijje
Isaac Sebakijje

While the BRICS, European and Middle Eastern countries have contributed tremendously in jumpstarting the hailed African economic progress, East Africa welcomes the United States to be a part of this history because there is a reservoir of goodwill that America enjoys on the continent.

It has been rightly stated that Africa, three times the size of United States with an estimated one billion people, is too large and diverse a continent to be dominated, or “taken over” by any one nation.

President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania outlines the US initiatives that have the potential to exceed ones developed by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Obama’s initiatives spotlight partnership, trade and investment and showcase Africa as a region of immense opportunities. These initiatives dispel the false notion that Africa is an active volcano ready to explode at any given moment. It is high time for the American business community to reframe their thinking and join the rest of the world by including Africa in their portfolios.

President Bill Clinton signed into law the African Growth and Opportunities Act and President George W. Bush focused on efforts to address the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Africa. Now President Barack Obama agrees more than ever that aid based solutions can no longer be applied indiscriminately. Africa seeks to engage the US as a partner for trade and investments. The Africa of today is where the depressed world economy can find growth, innovation and job opportunities.

The East African Community (EAC) is considered to be the most progressive trade bloc in Africa. We welcome collaboration between American entrepreneurs and ours. In that context, we are pleased that the US Department of Commerce has initiated a Commercial Dialogue Policy Toward East Africa as a regional model in Africa.

In that policy, the United States and the East African Community are pursuing a new USA-EAC Trade and Investment Partnership which will reinforce amongst other initiatives, the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) and the USA-EAC Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). According to the US Department of Commerce, this new partnership, the US and EAC will work together to provide new business opportunities to the USA and EAC firms by reducing trade barriers, improving the business environment, encouraging open investment regimes, and enhancing the two-way trade. Furthermore, the US and EAC agreed to explore a regional investment treaty, a trade facilitation agreement and continued trade capacity building assistance. The USA-EAC Commercial Dialogue will bring the private sector together with policy makers and increase opportunities for trade and investment.

Incidentally, this is the first Commercial Dialogue that the Department of Commerce has established with African partners and the first to be conducted along regional lines. It is a major component of the Obama Administration’s US Strategy towards Sub Saharan Africa helping US businesses to seize trade and investment opportunities on the continent. Emphasis is placed on, but not limited to promoting intra-regional and international trade highlighting trade-related infrastructure, agro-processing/agribusiness, market access, service sectors (including financial services, outsourcing, tourism and ICT, energy and entrepreneurship development.

This USA-EAC Commercial Dialogue is not by accident. It is a culmination of negotiation and efforts that have been ongoing behind the scenes between member states of EAC; Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. According to the White House fact sheet released on July 01, 2013, the EAC represents an economic success story. It is a market with immense opportunity for US exports and investment. The region boasts more than 140 million people with a progressive and stable regulatory system. It harbours promising local enterprises that are forming creative partnerships with multinational companies. The region has an emerging educated and globalized middle class with a GDP that has quadrupled in only 10 years.

In 2011, the professors at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimated that East Africa could become the fastest growing region in the world between now and 2020. At the same time, Earnest & Young identified 17 African countries with good potential for foreign direct investment (FDI) over the next five years.  Amongst them were Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. Therefore, the USA-EAC co-operation is a win-win proposition.

The writer is an experienced hotelier and tourism professional and Founder of Impactafrica Trade & Investments LLCT

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