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August 7, 2014

African markets set to skyrocket, leaders say


Discussions at the U.S.-Africa Leaders summit in Washington, D.C. this week highlighted Africa’s strong potential for economic growth.

Leaders from African nations gathered to discuss long-term infrastructure changes as well as increasing U.S. support for African development.

“I want Africans buying more American products. I want Americans buying more African products,” President Obama said at the summit.

Obama announced that U.S. companies will spend $14 billion on new initiatives in Africa such as construction, banking and clean energy.

Africa’s young population represents an enormous untapped market, according to African leaders. 15-to-25-year-olds comprise 60 percent of the continent’s population, according to Phuti Mahanyele, CEO of investment holding company Shanduka Group. This population will form the bulk of the future workforce, making job development crucial.

U.S. leaders have created several recent initiatives to encourage growth in the area. President Bill Clinton signed the African Growth and Opportunity Act in 2000 to incentivize economic development for African nations. Last year, President Obama launched the Power Africa initiative to provide electricity to rural areas and maximize energy efficiency.

However, the U.S. has “only barely scratched the surface” of what it could be doing, Clinton said. Only one percent of U.S. trade goes to sub-Saharan Africa.

Trading in the area has historically been difficult due to a lack of transportation and trading infrastructure, according to Torek Farhadi, a senior adviser at the International Trade Centre. Constructing better roads between nations would increase trade within Africa as well as between Africa and other continents, he said.

Warm up questions
  1. Where is sub-Saharan Africa?
  2. What are some reasons that trading has been difficult between different African nations?
Discussion questions
  1. Why is it important for the U.S. to invest in African nations’ development?
  2. What could be some potential effects on the African continent of having a population that is mostly under the age of 25?
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