US Firms Actively Involved in Community Beneficiation: US Ambassador

Trust Matsilele | CNBC Africa | 07 October 2014|17:21 GMT

Addressing a Nedbank-NEPAD Networking Forum in Johannesburg, Gaspard said Africa has long been important to the US policy with the two regions now working through Power Africa and Feeding the Future initiatives.
The US envoy to South Africa added that the relationship between Africa and his country was moving from donor recipient to equal trade partnership.

Gaspard added that reframing relationships was vital in global economic growth.
“US through its PEPFAR programme has invested over 4.2 billion US dollars in the last decade reducing mother to child transmission by 35 per cent,” said Gaspard.

“Our motivation in Africa is not profiteering but seeing African economies growing.”
Among others, Gaspard warned that the continent needed to make impact assessment of its policies urging the business leaders attending the conference to take a leading role.

“Investment alone is not the missing silver bullet as transparency and good governance formed part of the required intervention,” he said.
Gaspard said the demographic boom without employment creation creates a concern as the large unemployment group was burgeoning.
Scott Eisner, representative from the US Chamber of Commerce leading a delegation in Africa said beyond foreign direct investment, Africa needed to encourage regional trade.

According to Eisner, inter-Africa trade is presently at about 17 per cent.
Eisner also took the opportunity to allay fears of possibility by the US congress to decline renewing African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

The AGOA was signed into law on 18 May, 2000 as Title 1 of The Trade and Development Act of 2000. The Act offers tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets.
“We are an ardent supporter of AGOA and we will make sure that it is renewed as this benefits both South Africa and US companies in Africa,” he said.

Eisner dismissed usual allegations of US’s increased involvement in Africa as motivated by Chinese influence and displacing US as a major player in the region.

“We are not in South Africa as response to Chinese influence; we encourage competition as it enhances social, economic and cultural changes.”

Eisner added that US corporations’ interest was to have local labour, adding that this should be done with right skills having a long term view on company sustainability.

The US Chamber of Commerce warned that uncertainty remains a major concern for US businesses intending to invest in South Africa especially due to policy direction.

Among others, Eisner cited the nationalisation rhetoric, new visa requirements, security bill and the newly revised BEE code as concerns for investors.

Eisner said money is increasingly becoming mobile and investors will put their money where they are welcome.
The US Chamber of Commerce said it intends to work with local organisations such as Business Unity South Africa to leverage its skills on policy matters.