Peter BurdinBy Peter Burdin|August 10, 2021|6 Minutes|In AfCFTA


Americans Banking On A New Relationship With Africa.

In a month that’s seen widespread looting in South Africa, an upsurge in fighting in Tigray and Ethiopia, and a new record surge of Covid-19 deaths sweeping across the continent the phrase Prosper Africa might feel like a bit of a misnomer.

Not so say American investors, according to the US government’s Special Assistant to President Joe Biden.

Launching the Prosper Africa Build Together Campaign the USA’s Senior Director for Africa Dana Banks says US investors are “intrepid” and ready to engage with the content: “They are looking for new markets and they absolutely realise that Africa is the fastest-growing and potentially most profitable market for them to invest in. The continent’s many dynamic and fast-growing economies and populations should create a bright future of inclusive growth, sustainable development, enhanced health security, democratic progress and the rule of law for the continent.”


Ms Banks has more than twenty years’ experience of the continent after first experiencing life as an Intern at the US Embassy in Senegal, in 1999. She says the US wants to revitalise its partnership with Africa to bolster two-way trade, and she sees the Prosper Africa Build Together initiative as a key to greater trade and investment, highlighting the $80 million that has already been injected into the project: “Africa’s increasing integration into global markets, its demographic boom and of course its thriving culture of entrepreneurship present a remarkable opportunity for us to strengthen those economic ties and promote new opportunities for both US and African businesses to feel economic growth and job creation and see greater US participation in Africa’s future.


She pointed to a $217 million US financing for a power plant in Sierra Leone, and the US Development Finance Corporation investing almost $2 billion for projects in Africa this year. With President Biden’s personal support, she wants to galvanise the African-American community and the rest of the African diaspora to “elevate and energise” the US commitment to trade and investment with countries across the continent.

It’s all a far cry from President Biden’s predecessor at the White House, President Donald Trump, who notoriously never set foot on the continent during his four years in office and made some very disparaging remarks about Africa. Even President Barack Obama, with his Kenyan heritage, only made one brief visit during his Presidency when he swept through Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. With all his domestic problems, it remains to be seen if President Biden does any better. Certainly, his Senior Director for Africa Ms Banks, however, is determined to make up for lost time.


She says the Biden Administration will support President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and his Power Africa plan which, although much maligned, has brought electricity to around 18 million homes and businesses and represents a $24 billion infrastructure opportunity. She also promises investment in other infrastructure including healthcare and digital technology.

She points to President Biden’s decision to rejoin the World Health Organisation, that President Trump decided to quit, and the ending of discriminatory bans on Muslims and Africans entering the US, as harbingers of an Administration that is determined to re-set the dial on its relations with the continent.

Her intention is that Prosper Africa will prioritise Power Africa projects and will emphasise young people and the digital economy, promising that there will soon be some big policy announcements in these areas:

“We’re focussing on the youth to promote economic development. I’ve met so many impressive and dynamic alumni of the YALI programme. There are so many bright, innovative young people who are now leading in their fields whether in business, government or civil society.

” I met one young man from South Africa who’s created a digital platform called Govchat which allows citizens to demand more accountability from government on service delivery. That’s just one of thousands of examples on how the youth are leading the continent.”

So, America is back as President Biden likes to tell us. Perhaps it never really went away. One thing is certain and that’s there is a renewed energy that Ms Banks is bringing to the relationship – and that’s likely to encourage American investors to join in her passion for the continent.

I remember one former US Ambassador in Africa Donald Gipps once telling me that US investors already operating in Africa were very bullish, while those watching from the States were “scared stiff”. Ms Bank’s job will be to encourage would-be investors sitting in the US, and in particular the African-American diaspora, to take the plunge and get engaged in her “Build Back Better World”.

As the African Continental Free Trade Agreement continues to flex its tentacles across the continent from its base in Ghana, this renewed commitment from US, still the world’s largest economy, looks poised to become a useful ally in the task of creating a new prosperity for Africa.v