Here’s how black American leaders can open trade doors with Africa

Here’s how black American leaders can open trade doors with Africa

Here’s how black American leaders can open trade doors with Africa

President Joe Biden’s December summit on U.S.-Africa trade offers Black political and economic leaders an opportunity to make the most of the moment and forge new partnerships between America and the continent .

Black voters in the midterm elections showed political strength in coalitions in Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan and New York, among others. In Maryland, where blacks make up 30% of the population, history was made by electing Wes Moore as governor and Antonio Brown as attorney general. Certainly, this is a time of unprecedented political power for black Americans.

The proclamation by the United Nations General Assembly of 2015-2024 as the “International Decade for People of African Descent” adds to this moment. It is an attempt to promote diasporic development in the aftermath of slavery, including the promotion of fair trade patterns between Africa and Black America.

The challenge for leaders is how to use the momentum to make their states a place of ascension for the black community? One way is to strengthen relations with the 49 African countries invited to the summit by the Biden administration.

The administration has pledged to invest at least $55 billion in Africa over the next three years, with a particular focus on developing electricity access infrastructure. There are opportunities to team up in commercial and industrial ventures of mutual benefit.

Are Maryland leaders — and other state politicians — ready to organize trade delegations like Minnesota, which sponsored one to Ghana and Cameroon last year?

Black heads of state should use President Biden’s Africa summit as a launch pad for restoring economic ties with the continent.

Under the African Growth and Opportunity Act of 2000, as well as other trade agreements, companies from 36 sub-Saharan countries were granted duty-free access to the US market for approximately 6,800 goods. Major African products include cocoa, coffee, tea, fruits, nuts, shea butters, cotton, metals, machinery, spices, fashion, music and television CDs, and other items.

Leaders should find ways to encourage state agency procurement officers to source products from preferred African companies and help importers work with regulatory agencies. And, if possible, they should pressure federal officials to demand that container ships from Africa unload workers at the ports of Baltimore and Savannah.

Equally important is participation in the African Continental Free Trade Area, agreed upon by the US Chamber of Commerce and the African Union. Implemented at the December summit, the zone has the potential to boost growth, reduce poverty and expand economic inclusion across sub-Saharan Africa.

Certainly, black political and business leaders should demand the inclusion of the Biden administration; a seat at the table is a reasonable expectation from a president who has promised to support them.

In the immediate term, leaders should take advantage of the State Department’s gateway trade programs. In February, for example, the Department will sponsor a trade mission to Ghana in West Africa. The delegation of partnership opportunities aims to bring together business, financial and technical experts to pursue projects in the clean energy sector.

Another program, Power Africa, supports the private sector, international development organizations and government resources to increase electricity production. Since 2013, Power Africa has helped provide electricity access to nearly 165 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. The Biden administration has spent $193 million to support the initiative and plans to invest $100 million in 2023.

Black heads of state should facilitate the partnership of businesses, non-profit organizations and investment companies with the Clean Technology Energy Network. Over the next five years, the State Department aims to direct investments of up to $350 million in projects that expand access to reliable electricity. Another promising venture is the development of an electric vehicle battery chain in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia in Central Africa.

Understand that the region is rich in minerals and contested by the United States, China, the European Union and other powers. The DRC provides 70% of the world’s cobalt, while Zambia is the world’s sixth largest copper producer and Africa’s second largest cobalt producer, according to the State Department. During the Africa summit in December, a memorandum of understanding was signed for the electric battery project.

Black politicians must demand the inclusion of their industrial and financial entities in this potentially lucrative project.

In conclusion, black heads of state should use President Biden’s Africa summit as a launch pad for restoring economic ties with the continent.

To the extent that they can build on the momentum of the summit, they will create space for development for Black-owned businesses, investors and consumers and create lasting economic partnerships with their counterparts in Africa.

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