U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Boozman (R-AR) and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced legislation today that will help create American jobs by dramatically increasing the number of U.S. exports to Africa. The bill also aims to improve America's competiveness throughout the continent by forcing better coordination between U.S. government agencies and departments, establishing comprehensive strategic goals, and marshaling private investments to improve U.S.-Africa business activities.
"Increasingly I am hearing: "the U.S. has given up on Africa as a market.' While we're building institutions, China and others are building markets and we're being left behind," Senator Durbin said. "This bill will put the restoration of American competiveness in Africa at the forefront of our business and development goals. It will give American businesses the tools they need to do business in Africa, create jobs at home, and help ensure America is seen as a leader in a rapidly changing part of the world."
"When we talk about job creation, free and fair trade is a vital component to a successful plan. An effective trade strategy with African nations will help us significantly add jobs here at home. The eagerness and willingness to be good trade partners on the part of African nations is there. The desire for American products, along with our ideals, is strong. The only thing missing is a cohesive strategy on our end. That is what we are aiming to create with this legislation," Senator Boozman said.
"Significantly increasing U.S. exports to Africa will help create American jobs and keep us competitive in the global market," Senator Coons said. "This important legislation cites and builds on a report I recently released with concrete recommendations to help us implement a smarter, more cohesive strategy for broad and deep U.S. engagement with Africa in the public and the private sectors. Economic engagement with Africa is essential in today's global economy. In fact, it is a race for access to the fastest-growing markets anywhere in the world and that's a race I want the United States to win. I look forward to working with Senator Durbin and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, in the Senate and the House, to ensure we pass this important bill."
Africa's expanding middle class provides a large and growing market for American products and the continent's increasing urbanization calls for investments in rapidly expanding infrastructure projects. Sub-Saharan Africa alone is projected to be home to seven of the ten fastest growing economies over the next five years. But other nations have beaten us to the punch, aggressively investing in the continent to ensure their businesses have first access to markets.
Between 2008 and 2010, China provided more loans to the developing world than the World Bank -- totaling more than $110 billion. In 2009, China surpassed the United States as the African continent's largest trading partner and in the next decade it is poised to invest internationally as much as $2 trillion. Members of the European Union and countries like India, Turkey, Russia and Brazil are all expanding their economic presence in Africa, with many also offering concessional (below market) loans, further undercutting American competiveness. All this while the Department of Commerce is cutting staff based in Africa and the Export-Import Bank continues to operate without a permanent presence on the continent.
The U.S.'s continued failure to develop a coherent strategy to compete in Africa is hurting both American business interests, American workers and our political influence in the region.
The tools available to the United States to competitively compete in Africa are scattered, difficult to access, and not effectively coordinated. The Durbin-Boozman-Coons bill will force a coordinated focus on increasing exports to Africa by making the following improvements:
Develop a comprehensive strategy to create American jobs by increasing exports of US goods and services to Africa by at least 200 percent in real dollar value over the next ten years.
Create a Special White House Africa Strategy coordinator to ensure government agencies are maximizing resources to help U.S. companies expand into African markets.
Coordinate the Export-Import Bank, State Department, Department of Commerce, Small Business Administration, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee efforts to more effectively promote U.S. business exports to Africa.
Establish and or maintain Export Import Bank and Department of Commerce trade staff full time on the African continent to help U.S. businesses.
Formalize training received by U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service officers and Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development economic officer on key programs and procedures of the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Small Business Administration, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
Raise limits on Export Import Bank loans available to U.S. businesses to directly combat Chinese concessional loans. This proposal is revenue-neutral as the Export-Import Bank is a profitable, self-financing agency.
Further Overseas Private Investment Corporation's efforts to foster U.S. business access to African markets. This provision is also revenue-neutral as OPIC is a profitable self-financing agency.
A similar bill was introduced in both the House and Senate last Congress. The Senate bill was also approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year.
Durbin is the Assistant Majority Leader of the Senate and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Boozman is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and a member of its Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation and Export Promotion. Coons is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Chairman of its Subcommittee on African Affairs.