Congressman Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) made the following opening remarks during a hearing on H.R. 4221, The Increasing American Jobs Through Greater Exports to Africa Act:
Good afternoon Chairman Chris Smith, Ranking Member Karen Bass, and all the other subcommittee members. Thank you for allowing me to participate in this hearing on "The Increasing American Jobs through Greater Exports to Africa Act of 2012."
I am proud to join Chairman Smith as coauthor of this bill to develop a comprehensive strategy to create American jobs by increasing exports of U.S. goods and services to Africa by at least 200 percent in real dollar value over the next ten years.
Chairman Smith, I commend you and your staff for your leadership on this issue, especially for the bipartisan manner in which we worked together during the process of drafting this legislation. This is the way Congress should work.
I also thank Senator Dick Durbin, Senator John Boozman, Senator Benjamin Cardin, and Senator Christopher Coons for championing S. 2215, which carries the same title.
I welcome Ambassador Johnnie Carson and Ms. Florizelle Liser. I am happy to see you and I commend you for your efforts to increase trade and investment in Africa.
This bill is the right bill for these challenging economic times. The U.S. has talked for too long about Africa as the next trade and investment frontier. The future of Africa is NOW and it is time to act!
We now have a tremendous opportunity to build mutually beneficial policies that create jobs and economic growth on both continents.
For a long time, Africa has been portrayed exclusively as a war-riddled continent filled with dictators, poverty, and disease. Yet the true story of its country-by-country reawakening and revival, and the story of many great successes remains untold. Seven out the ten fastest growing economies are today in Africa.
Africa has an expanding middle class. Africa has millions of consumers who desire American products. Africa also needs increased investments in its rapidly growing infrastructure that will continue to power its expansion and overall growth.
During my travels to African countries I often hear from African leaders, business people, and consumers that they prefer products made in America. They talk about the quality of our products, their reliability, our innovative technologies, and they express appreciation for our labor and environmental standards. But we are not reacting!
Meanwhile, they are being offered Chinese financing. As one African Ambassador told me once, "If you cannot have what you love, you end up loving what you have" and they have China.
It is time to ACT!
This legislation will help to foster a greater understanding among U.S. businesses and financial communities about the opportunities that exist throughout Africa.
The U.S. investment opportunities in Africa outside of the energy and mineral sectors hold a great potential to increase jobs in Africa, boost income earning power, and help diversify African economies, thus making Africa stronger as a market for U.S. goods and services.
Poverty and hunger are still widespread problems, but Africa's growing middle class is creating business and investment opportunities that are among the best in the world. With the right trade policy in place we can unlock the potential of a thriving private sector and lift millions out of poverty.
The tools available to U.S. companies to competitively compete in Africa are scattered, difficult to access, and not effectively coordinated. The competition for jobs is real. We need to think more strategically and be more innovative as to how we can best support our investors in Africa.
H.R. 4221 "The Increasing American Jobs through Greater Exports to Africa Act of 2012" has been introduced for that purpose.
If enacted, this legislation will create an estimated 315,000 jobs in the U.S. Among other things, the bill will create a Special White House Africa Strategy coordinator to ensure government agencies are maximizing resources to help U.S. companies penetrate and expand their current presence in existing African markets.
The bill includes language from H.R. 656 -- The African Investment and Diaspora Act of 2011 (AIDA), that I introduced last Congress, positioning the U.S African Diaspora to spur African Economic Growth. When I introduced AIDA social media responded and our Facebook group gained close to 10 thousand members in less than a week. More than one hundred African immigrant groups signed a petition in support of this initiative.
I have not met with a single African who did not express the desire to contribute to the development of the African continent. Many are willing to represent American firms. This will help turn brain drain into brain flow, charting a new paradigm for strengthening U.S.--Africa Relations in the 21st century. It also marks the first step towards unleashing Africa's vast potential through win-win trade and investment opportunities, a reflection of history and destiny shared between the U.S. and Africa.
This bill will help reduce non-trade barriers, encourage regional integration of African countries, increase U.S. exports, and positively affect United States trade, export, and labor initiatives.
Furthermore, passage of this legislation will ensure that U.S. policy is contributing meaningfully to the positive transformation of Africa, enabling it to progress towards full integration into the twenty-first century world economy -- not only as a supplier of raw materials and resources but as a full participant in international supply and distribution chains.
The futures of the African and American economies are intertwined. The future is NOW.
We MUST act NOW!
I am looking forward to hearing your testimonies. Thank you.