With $37BN in Trade and Aid Deals, US-Africa Business Summit to Stay As Mechanism for Decisions and Actions – From Alhassan Yushau, ANA North America Editor

In a diplomatic heavy lifting unprecedented in the history of United States, US President Barak Obama wrapped up a three-day US-Africa Leaders Summit — referring to the gathering of over 50 African heads of states and governments as “a forcing mechanism for decisions and actions.

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“US-Africa Leaders Summit will be recurring events to hold ourselves accountable for our commitments and to sustain our momentum,” he declared in a post-summit press conference.

With 5,400 delegates attending, some non-profits, think-tanks, civil society groups, and private businesses spiced up the summit with dozens of side events such as fora, bilaterals, deal signings and announcements, balls, award ceremonies,

African festivals, receptions and dinners for over a week. Better yet, the massive gathering had two former US Presidents–Bill Clinton, who moderated one session during a business forum, and George Bush Jnr., who spoke during a day-long Spousal Session jointly hosted by US First Lady Michelle Obama, former First Lady Laura Bush, with Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden attending, bringing together 35 First Ladies from Africa at Kennedy Center.

For once though, US Congress put aside political bickering and hosted the visiting African leaders to a reception on Capitol Hill — with high ranking Members attending.  Top US officials such as US Vice President Joe Biden, US Secretary of State John Kerry, US Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, US National Security Advisor Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power also attended the summit, as did former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

A session on Contribution of the Faith Community set the tone of the summit on August 1st with the Civil Society Forum starting the week of intensive sessions on August 4th, running con-currently; the Africa Growth And Opportunity Act (AGOA), Forum at the neighboring World Bank headquarters, Working Luncheons on Investing in Women for Peace and Prosperity, Investing in Health; Investing in Africa’s Future; Resilience and Food Security in a Changing Climate, and Combating Wildlife Trafficking—all taking place at the National Science Academy buildings opposite the State Department.

But the second day, August 5th, placed the event in clear business perspective–with high end US-Africa Business Forum jointly hosted by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the U.S Department of Commerce at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. With over 200 US and African heads of corporations attending, the forum had sessions such as leaders breakfast, Expanding Opportunities, the new era for business in Africa, Open Markets: Financing the Africa of Tomorrow, Powering Africa: Leading Development in Infrastructure, Game Plan: Shaping the Future of a Fast Growing Continent, with President Clinton, and Vice President Joe Biden participating while President Obama would later close the session.

Viewed as a long-overdue move to play catch up with EU and China, the summit gave the United States the chance to strengthen its decades of relations with Africa by providing a platform for US top officials to broker deals between American companies and African business and government leaders evidenced by some major deal signings and announcements on public and private investments in economic, health, and agricultural developments to the tune of $37 billion.

While pressing home the need for improvements on democracy, good governance, and human rights on the continent, the event was capped with the Leaders Sessions which was held at the at the US State Departments –focusing on three thematic issues of: investing in Africa’s future, Peace and Security, as well as Governing for the Next Generation.

This session’s “Closed Press” restriction gave the African Leaders and their American counter parts the chance of a behind-the scene diplomatic interactions, where a no-holds-barred mutual concerns that characterized US-Africa relations over the years, were raised and discussed into a communique.

A lot of issues where agreed on in pushing this new relationship with Africa into the future. Key among which is a “new peace-keeping rapid response project” to boost Africa’s strength to defuse conflicts, President Obama told the post-summit press conference.

In view of the continues infighting by the mandarins on Capitol Hill (US Congress) however, one can only be cautiously optimistic about the future of this renewed partnership we can only wait until “the words on paper and the hours of talking are implemented and acted upon,” observed House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Edward Royce.