The affinity Africans have for the United States, which was significantly strengthened by Obama’s 2008 election, must be leveraged to ensure America holds its seat at the table and doesn’t lose ground to economic competitors.
Africa is ready to leverage trade opportunities over tired, old aid paradigms. Africans en masse say they no longer need only aid to solve their problems. Africans confidently signal that they are ready to engage the United States on trade and investment terms that will be far more transformative than the aid-based solutions of the past.
The next major event on the horizon is the reauthorization of the African Growth and Opportunities Act, set to expire in 2015. It’s our nation’s pre-eminent trade arrangement with the continent and has employed hundreds of thousands of Africans, pulled millions of people out of poverty and grown industries where none previously existed.
In sum, Africa’s 54 nations are experiencing something close to a renaissance. The challenge before us is whether America is ready to participate in this new era of engagement or whether we’ll stand on the sidelines and let other nations take the lead.
Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., is ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.