Securing Africa’s future through private investment

Michael R. Pompeo and others looking at products on table (State Dept./Ron Przysucha)
U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and his wife, Susan, meet with entrepreneurs in Dakar, Senegal, on February 16 during a trip focused on spurring economic growth in African countries. (State Dept./Ron Przysucha)

True economic liberation delivered the greatest economic growth in human history in the United States and can do the same for Africa, U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said February 19.

In his remarks to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the secretary outlined the path to attracting investment and creating jobs.

“Only nations hospitable to the private sector will stimulate enough growth, enough opportunity, enough resources, enough capital that will deliver jobs and prosperity on the scale that this continent needs,” Pompeo said.

Rule of law, protection of property rights, women’s empowerment, and leaders who respect their own people are essential for sustained economic growth on a continent where 60% of the population are under 25, Pompeo said.

He contrasted the success of U.S.-style capitalism against socialist experiments that have failed to create prosperity. And he commended the many African countries that are taking steps to liberate entrepreneurship.

Rwanda has created tax exemptions for small- and medium-sized businesses. Togo has eliminated bureaucratic hurdles to permitting that stall economic decision-making. Angola is fighting corruption and privatizing hundreds of state-owned businesses, Pompeo noted.

Meanwhile, U.S. companies are increasing investment in Africa. The engineering firm Bechtel has committed to building a road in Senegal connecting Dakar to Saint-Louis. Chevron and Coca-Cola are exploring increased investments on the continent.

“When American capital comes, it hires local,” Pompeo said.

“Countries should be wary of authoritarian regimes with empty promises,” Pompeo said. “They breed corruption, dependency, they don’t hire the local people, they don’t train.”

The U.S. government is also seeking to spur growth. The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, launched recently, and the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP) both seek to bring private-sector investment to developing countries. W-GDP plans to empower 50 million women by 2025, half of them in Africa.

“The United States stands for local jobs, environmental responsibility, honest business practices, high-quality work, and mutual prosperity,” Pompeo said.

“Don’t take my word for it — look at the facts, look at the history. We stand for true partnership, true economic liberation.”