As President Barack Obama prepares to visit East Africa, Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda urged the U.S. to be more assertive in promoting business ties with the continent.
Compared with China, whose investments have grown 40-fold in the past 12 years, the U.S. is seen as “lukewarm” in Africa, Rugunda, 67, said Thursday in an interview in Bloomberg’s New York headquarters. Obama arrives in Nairobi, Kenya, Friday, and will travel to Ethiopia where he will address the African Union.
“China has been very strong coming in and embarking on projects, seeing the projects mature and bringing in results,” Rugunda said. “The United States has had good policies, good intentions, but when it comes to concrete tangible big projects, you look for them and you need to look very hard in order to see them.”
U.S. trade with sub-Saharan Africa last year was $53 billion, about a quarter of China’s total and less than India’s $64 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. While U.S. foreign direct investment in Africa totals $31 billion and accounts for 13 percent of the continent’s stock, it grew at 25 percent the rate of Chinese investment between 2001 and 2012, according to the Brookings Institution.
The Obama administration has focused on building trade ties with Africa by extending an accord that offers duty-free access to thousands of its products and increasing access to energy through his $8 billion Power Africa plan.
“We see India, we see China coming in with eager and embarking on important projects that mean a lot for the development of our economy especially in the areas of investments, infrastructure, and also in trade,” Rugunda said. “We would be happy to see more trade originated from the American business community.”