U.S. Seeks Expanded Partnership with Africa, USAID’s Shah Says

President Obama joined USAID's Rajiv Shah to tour the Feed the Future Agricultural Technology Marketplace in Senegal.
President Obama joined USAID’s Rajiv Shah to tour the Feed the Future Agricultural Technology Marketplace in Senegal.

By Kathryn McConnell
IIP Staff Writer
Washington, DC
July 11, 2013

The United States seeks an expanded partnership with sub-Saharan Africa based on improved growth, trade and investment, says U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah.

Shah spoke July 9 at a forum in Washington sponsored by the Center for Global Development. He recently accompanied President Obama on a trip to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. He said that during the trip Obama stressed that today’s model of development involves mutual transparency and accountability, and enables public and private partnerships “to flourish and thrive.” Shah said six of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Shah said that throughout the trip, Obama met with citizen groups, particularly those that reach youth. He said the president repeatedly talked about citizens’ need to respect principles of democracy and governments’ need to function openly so citizens can see where their countries’ resources are going and to provide citizens with transparent avenues for input.

Obama said he wants to pursue renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the signature U.S. trade initiative with sub-Saharan Africa. The United States and Ethiopia will host the 2013 AGOA Forum in August in Addis Ababa.

In Tanzania, Obama launched a program called Trade Africa, designed to expand trade between the United States and Africa and among African countries. The program starts in East Africa, then will expand to other regions on the continent.

Obama also launched the Power Africa program, a commitment to help sub-Saharan Africa develop 9,600 megawatts of new power generation and transmission. The program aims to help 20 million households access power.

Shah said limited access to consistent and low-cost energy is the biggest obstacle for people in rural sub-Saharan Africa and is a core constraint to partnerships. The cost of energy, he said, limits the capacity of small- and medium-sized businesses to manufacture goods and build their enterprises.

He explained that through the program, the United States can provide grants and technical assistance to countries so they can make specific policy changes, like reforming their state-run utilities and altering their energy price structures to create sustainable markets. Power Africa will help the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Export-Import Bank provide loan guarantees and financing support to American companies interested in investing in energy projects in Africa.

So far, companies have committed almost $14 billion of investment to generate more access to energy in the region, Shah said.

He said the trip underscored “the absolute urgency” of working on climate change issues as they relate to development goals. He said that throughout the trip, it was evident that climate change is putting significant pressure on rain-fed farming. Shah praised the Center for Global Development and other groups and individuals working to raise awareness of the need to develop agricultural methods to cope with hotter and drier climate conditions.

Obama also promoted U.S. efforts to reduce hunger and malnutrition, Shah said. The president met with entrepreneurs and scientists, many who work in conjunction with representatives of American agricultural universities, who are developing food security technologies like bio-fortified seeds and improved fertilizer-planting techniques.

Shah said the U.S. Feed the Future program now helps more than 7 million farmers adopt improved agricultural technologies or practices on 4 million hectares in 19 target countries, 12 of them in Africa. Feed the Future is the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative established in 2009.