The US president Joe Biden’s administration unveiled plans to bolster trade and investment ties with Africa on July 27, following the president’s May budget proposal, in which he requested $80m in funding to kickstart the initiative.  

An extension of former president Donald Trump’s campaign of the same name, Mr Biden’s reimagined Prosper Africa initiative will target key sectors such as clean energy, health, agribusiness and transportation infrastructure.

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Moreover, the revamped plan places new emphasis on supporting diaspora businesses as well as female-run companies.

“Through Prosper Africa, USAID will directly connect American investors with African businesses ripe for investment to help American businesses access Africa’s fast-growing markets and create thousands of jobs for both African and American workers,” Samantha Power, administrator at the US Agency for International Development said at the US–Africa Business Summit 2021, which was held virtually between July 27 and July 29 this year. 

Power Africa

Green energy represents a focal point of the campaign, extending the legacy of another former president, Barack Obama, and his 2013 Power Africa initiative, which aimed at increasing access to sustainable power in sub-Saharan Africa.  

“Recent commitments from Power Africa, from the Development Finance Corporation, the US Trade and Development Agency, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, as well as the US–Africa Development Foundation, will support the expansion of off-grid energy solutions in Africa, which represents a $24bn opportunity annually” Dana L Banks, special assistant to the president and senior director for Africa at the National Security Council, said in a press briefing.

Ms Banks also cited agreements signed by the Millenium Challenge Corporation with the West African Power Pool and a memorandum of understanding with the governments of Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire, which she says “will facilitate opportunities for increased US trade and investment in the energy sector in the West Africa region.”

Diaspora and women-led businesses

Mr Biden’s re-envisioned Prosper Africa campaign also seeks to uplift diaspora businesses and small, female-owned companies by providing them with the resources needed to connect with investors across the Atlantic.  

“Lastly,” Ms Banks remarked, “we will provide targeted support to small and medium-sized businesses with a specific focus on the African diaspora and their businesses and investors across the US.”

One such example is that of Ghana-based Naasakle International, a mother–daughter shea distributor who, with the support of Prosper Africa and USAID, have brought their Eugenia Shea and Mother’s Shea product lines to more than 1000 Target stores in the US, while donating 15% of profits to 10,000 regional shea pickers.

Eugenia Akuete, founder of Naasakle International commented on the support the company received from the US government in an interview with Prosper Africa in January: “It’s not just a one-way situation where one country is supporting another country. They’re also benefiting in terms of what is coming back to the US — that’s exciting.”

Just a few US investors have been actively chasing business opportunities across the continent. Between 2010 and June 2021, they announced around 1000 investment projects in African countries, which accounts for barely 2.8% of the overall number of projects they announced globally in the period, according to data from greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets.