Biden revives Trump’s Africa business initiative; eyes future digital project

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A senior U.S. official, on Tuesday, said Biden administration would announce a new push to expand business ties between U.S. companies and Africa.

Dana Banks, Senior Director for Africa at the White House National Security Council, said cooperation would focus on building needed digital, health and physical infrastructure on the continent.

U.S. industry executives welcome the interest, but say dollar flows would lag until the Biden administration wraps up its lengthy review of Trump administration trade measures and sets a clear policy on investments in liquefied natural gas.

Banks would kick off a U.S.-Africa business summit, with a pledge to “re-imagine” and revive Prosper Africa, an initiative unveiled by the Trump administration in 2018.

She said President Joe Biden, who requested nearly $80 million for the initiative in his budget proposal in May, aims to focus the initiative on women and equity, with an expanded role for small- and medium-sized businesses.

Banks said the administration’s goal was to “reinvigorate Prosper Africa as the centrepiece of U.S. economic and commercial engagement with Africa,’’ with more details to be released soon on a companion initiative called Digital Africa.

“This is an area that is a priority both at home and abroad,’’ Banks said.

They added that African countries were eager to expand their cooperation with the U.S. and its companies.

U.S. business executives warn that the U.S. is in danger of being overtaken by China and Europe, which are already investing and concluding trade agreements across the continent.

Scott Eisner, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-Africa Business Centre said “we can’t wait another year to devise an Africa policy; we need to be bold in our thinking.’’

Eisner said that many companies had started to eye investments in Kenya, given the Trump administration’s talks with Kenya on a bilateral free trade agreement, but that those plans were on ice until the Biden review of that policy was completed.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office had no immediate comment on the status of the review.