US senators eye local investment

Delaware Senator Christopher Coons. (Pic: Adiel Ismail)
Delaware Senator Christopher Coons. (Pic: Adiel Ismail)

A US senate delegation sees a South African youth job placement programme as a promising model for their own country.

They were impressed by the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator and would propose its introduction in the US, delegation leader Senator Chris Coons said during his two-day visit to South Africa.

“We view it as a very promising model and would like to see it replicated in the US. We want to see US companies playing a key part in programmes like that and address some of the key challenges here.”

Harambee was established in 2010 as an independent, nonprofit social enterprise that works with businesses, youth organisations, government agencies, donors and technology providers to research youth unemployment and to place young people in the job market.

Since its inception it has helped more than 40 000 unemployed youngsters find their first jobs, as a result of its partnership with 400 corporations and small to medium-sized enterprises.

The US bipartisan delegation is visiting South Africa, Zimbabwe, Niger and Burkina Faso to strengthen ties.

Coons serves on the senate committee on foreign relations, ethics, appropriations, judiciary and small business and entrepreneurship.

He previously led the charge for South Africa to open up its market to US poultry, pork and beef, or lose duty-free, quota-free access to the US market for other products under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).

Coons said US companies would be encouraged to increase investment and partnerships with South African companies.

“This morning, we met with a dozen businesses that are South African, but have US partnership, to talk about their investment in the creation of job opportunities for the youth, in their support for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s vision for addressing challenges facing South Africa,” he said.

Trump's trade tariffs

Coons emphasised that the US government respected African countries. He expressed disappointment with President Donald Trump’s recent disparaging tweets about the continent and his threats to start a “trade war”, particularly with China.

Trump has instructed US trade officials to consider imposing $100bn (R1.2trn) in additional tariffs against the Asian powerhouse, after accusing the country of engaging in practices to obtain America’s intellectual property unfairly.

The US government has proposed tariffs of 25% on imports of 1 300 Chinese industrial and other products.

China has hit back with its own list of proposed duties on US products such as soya beans, planes, cars, beef and chemicals.

“Personally, I don’t agree with President Trump’s reaction of threatening tariffs and trying to start a trade war.

“Although, I do agree with some of the concerns he’s raised about the US-China relationship in terms of intellectual property and unequal basis of trade,” Coons said.

Trade with South Africa

Coons said that the reauthorised 2015 Agoa opened opportunities to the entire US market for goods and services from South Africa.

He said he was happy that South Africa had taken full advantage of that.

“We’ve taken every opportunity to partner with the South African government and business and welcome the emerging and growing marketplace of South African products, from wine to luxury vehicles,” he said.

Coons praised the country for its respectable universities, research institutions and advanced manufacturing in the pharmaceutical sector.

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