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EDITORIAL: The U.S.-Africa Summit

8/13/2014, 3 p.m.
The largest gathering of African leaders in the U.S. went off without a hitch.
South African President Jacob Zuma told media and guests at the National Press Club on Monday, Aug. 4 that South Africa is open for business. He said that he and other leaders from African countries prefer African-led solutions to African problems. Photo by Roy Lewis

The largest gathering of African leaders in the U.S. went off without a hitch. Three days of meetings and face-to-face talks have laid the groundwork for what all sides hope and expect will be a significant increase in trade and commerce between the United States and the majority of nations on the African continent.

This represents a turning point in the relationship, marks the U.S.’s move from force to diplomacy and gives power to Africans to shape their own destinies.

Currently, the total amount of U.S.-Africa trade stands at $60 billion, paltry when compared with the hundreds of billions of dollars in trade China and the European Union have with Africa.

At the conclusion of the summit, the Obama administration announced more than $33 billion in investment pledges and now comes the real work.Words have to be translated into action. Going forward, American businesses seeking to get a foothold in African markets, will be doing the due diligence, meeting with government officials and business leaders on the continent and attempting to hammer out deals. Others already on the ground will be looking to increase their presence.

Several presidents and ministers said they welcome a renewed American focus on investing in the continent and they’re encouraging Obama officials and potential investors to move beyond extracting ores and minerals like gold and coal, oil and natural gas. They cited the need for infrastructure build-up, job training, technical assistance, access to markets, sustainable development and industrialization.

Africa has been going through a renaissance and as the continent continues to flourish, the needs and economic growth in industrialized countries will mean greater competition for African resources.

There are still formidable challenges that stand before success. This includes implementing transparency, the rule of law, democracy, accountability and stamping out corruption. Working through these issues will determine the depth and scope of the summit’s future success.