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A Growing Culture of Entrepreneurship Across the African Continent is Changing the Future of Many
“Africa is said to be the next frontier.”
Ambassador Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye, Ambassador of Nigeria to the United States, stood before a room of close to 150 leaders convened at the Africa Forum, a half-day series of conversations designed to set the tone for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit that would take place in Washington, D.C., just four weeks later.
His Excellency Ambassador Adefuye was only one of five African ambassadors who graced the dais; subsequent panel discussions featured the opinions and perspective of Their Excellencies Dr. Tebelelo Mazile Seretse of Botswana, Faida Mitifu of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberata Rutageruka Mulamula of Tanzania, and Cheikh Niang of Senegal. Yet, in some ways Ambassador Adefuye’s opening remarks spoke for them all: “We in Africa don’t want aid any more. We want trade, and access to markets…. Sometimes we haven’t been able to get it right. But now we are determined to get it right.”
While some leaders from the United States and Europe have failed to hear it, in recent years, Africa’s leaders have changed their tune. The long-held stereotype of African heads of state pleading for increases in foreign aid has been replaced by requests for long-term investments based on partnership and mutual gain.
“Give us the opportunity and we will prove our worth,” the Ambassador declared.
But these requests appear to have fallen on deaf ears in the United States, while other countries have heeded the cry, and responded to fill the gaps. China, India, and Brazil have quickly become major investors in many of Africa’s most promising frontiers: infrastructure, oil, natural gas, and telecommunications in Ghana, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Kenya, among others.
America’s prominent absence in many of these new markets has finally gained the attention of U.S. government leaders. President Obama will welcome private and public sector leaders from across the African continent and the United States in early August with two anchor agendas: good commerce and good government. The Summit seeks to bring together heads of state alongside U.S. cabinet members and American and African CEOs for productive conversations that can rectify America’s absence in these critical markets, focusing on trade and investment in Africa as well as its security and democratic development. Yet, the Summit’s optimal return lies a layer deeper, in conversations that take policy to practical process with regards to long-term lending, opening of markets, and the resulting partnerships and opportunities they can deliver, all of which are inextricably linked to a renewed emphasis at the core of truly sustainable development: enterprise.