US to seek foothold in Africa

2013-06-29 08:03
(Picture: AP)

(Picture: AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Johannesburg - Barack Obama will land to not much fanfare from the South African public for his first trip to the country as US president.

He comes at a time when many are preoccupied with the health of Nelson Mandela, who remains in critical condition in hospital.

But even without Mandela's illness, positive interest in such presidential visits, would depend on people being assured that the US is making a firm commitment to Africa's future.

Obama's first term in office was largely disengaged from the continent. He visited Ghana for less than a day in 2009.

His second term looked set to be more of the same, until the US realised it was ceding its position to the Chinese, who were making deeper inroads in the continent.

Beijing has surpassed Washington as Africa's largest trading partner.

The pressure increased when Chinese President Xi Jinping decided to visit Africa as part of his first trip abroad in March, shortly after becoming the leader of the world's second-largest economy.

While Western nations remain the lifeblood of African development, through aid programmes and trade, the Chinese have been pouring in foreign investment with no political conditions. Even the new AU headquarters in Addis Ababa is Chinese built.

Most of the world's fastest-growing economies have a presence on the continent. With many American businesses believing Africa's boom is just around the corner, there is increased pressure on the US administration to have a policy conducive to commerce.

"Africa has come to a point in its development where it is beginning to be viewed by key partners as an important trade, investment and economic partner," South African Trade Minister Rob Davies told reporters this week. "We are moving away from the old relationship."

"South Africa is a very pivotal country. We are the most industrialised country in Africa," said Davies, stressing SA’s role as a "gateway" to the rest of the continent.

Building a relationship

Jeffery Nemeth, the head of the US Chamber of Commerce in South Africa, believes Obama's visit is vital to building up a stronger, more-committed relationship to Africa.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), gross domestic product growth is forecast at 5.4% for sub-Saharan Africa in 2013, and 5.7% in 2014.

"The president's visit is a very key visit. Africa is the next global economic success story and South Africa plays a key role in Africa fulfilling that vision," said Nemeth.

More than R120bn in trade takes place each year between the US and South Africa, and the trade balance is fairly even, with Pretoria suffering a small deficit of about R400m.

However, SA's dominant position is not secure. The country needs to strengthen infrastructure - electricity supply is one major area - so foreign industrialists can be assured the basics are in place for business to work.

South Africa has struggled to lift many of its poor out of deprivation. While the economy has grown by 83% since 1994, the unemployment rate is stuck at 25%.

In part, the slow progress is owing to a lack of skills among the workforce. Nemeth, from the Chamber of Commerce, said many US companies struggle to find qualified employees.

Trade links

Though the AU tries to unite the continent, trade links between African nations are weak at best. Many African nations do more trade with countries in Europe and further abroad than with each other.

"As we move forward, two things will assist South African business, not only US business, and those are more open trade and market access and the second is a more efficient logistic system across Africa," said Nemeth.

For South Africa, a key aspect of this trip is getting Obama to extend the current African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), as it allows some key products from the continent - such as car parts and agricultural produce - to enter the US market duty free.

Agoa expires in 2015.

While the programme has enjoyed only limited success, African governments believe the deal is better than no agreement at all with the world's largest economy.


Read more on:    au  |  nelson mandela  |  xi jinping  |  barack obama  |  us  |  china  |  obama in africa

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Zuma: Pray for peaceful polls

President Jacob Zuma has asked members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God to pray for peaceful elections on 7 May.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Friday Grabouw - 11:32 AM
    Road name: N2 Eastbound
    DELAYS between Sir Lowrys Pass and Grabouw
  • Friday Cape Town - 10:14 AM
    Road name: M3 Inbound
    EVENT - left lane closed between Rhodes Avenue and UCT
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 8520

Wi-Fi enabled With the BlackBerry Curve 8520 connect to your home...

From R1100.00

I'm shopping for:


Self-indulgence may be strong today. You may want to enjoy yourself to the fullest and share it with those that make you more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.