Can Trump’s Prosper Africa make America greater than China and other partners in Africa?

By Landry Signé and Eric Olander

The official launch of the Trump Administration’s Prosper Africa program at the Corporate Council on Africa’s U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Mozambique on June 19 comes after months of policy talk about ramping up trade and investment between the United States and African countries. Prosper Africa aligns with the Trump administration’s Africa strategy, introduced by National Security Adviser John Bolton last December, which aims to promote prosperity, security, and stability in U.S.-Africa relations, and confirms the administration’s prioritization of trade and investment to reach those three objectives.

This strategy might be “one of the most business-friendly U.S.-Africa policies in recent times—at least in principle.” Now, though, the administration has to bridge the gap between its praiseworthy business principles and the policy options needed to turn them into reality.

Bolton initially posed the administration’s Africa strategy as a direct counter to Chinese and Russian “predatory practices” and influence on the continent. Prosper Africa is now, however, presented by U.S. officials as an innovative method of engaging with African leaders and entrepreneurs through a coordinated effort among U.S. agencies—with less reference to China.

The initiative is a welcome change from the administration’s previous comments about avoiding engagement with some African countries and intentionally decreasing African immigration into the U.S.

Though Prosper Africa cannot entirely make up for this rhetoric, nor the $252 million funding cuts to Ebola response efforts in early 2018, the strategy is a first step in improving the coordination of U.S. efforts toward better trade and investment relations.

Prosper Africa aims to reverse the United States’ eroding ground in African markets by providing technical assistance for U.S. and African companies in order to double two-way trade and investment. It includes a special focus on transparent markets and private enterprise as the foundations of economic growth and job creation.

According to Deputy Secretary of Commerce Karen Kelly, Prosper Africa has three coordinated lines of effort: 1) synchronizing the initiatives and capabilities of government agencies, 2) modernizing and coordinating those agencies’ resources to help companies identify business opportunities in African markets, and 3) building African capacity through private sector strengthening.

According to the administration, the presidential initiative will operate in conjunction with the new U.S. International Development Finance Corp, which has already announced that it plans to double its investment in low-income countries starting in October, and the Access Africa initiative, which focuses on boosting U.S.-African partnerships in developing sub-Saharan Africa’s information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure.

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