By VINCENT OWINO
The US is seeking to create more “mutually beneficial” partnerships with African countries in addressing climate change, health and economic growth, US Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and Environment Jose Fernandez has said.
Fernandez spoke to African journalists in Cape Town on May 11, where he delivered a keynote address at Mining Indaba, an investment conference devoted to the capitalisation of and development of African mining.
He also visited Zambia in order to meet President Hakainde Haichilema and officials of his government as well as representatives from the business community.
“My message both here and in Zambia is that Africa is key to achieving some of the most important priorities of the Biden administration,” Mr Fernandez said, adding that the US government is ready to partner with African countries and private American firms to invest in key priority areas.
Mining, Mr Fernandez said, is among the areas the US government seeks to improve partnerships with Africa, “but it’s got to be in a way that benefits communities, that benefits the people, that is transparent.”
“The US is ready to partner and our companies are ready to partner with African governments and companies to develop mining resources on the continent,” he said.
“We will do so in a way that’s responsible, that’s respectful, that benefits communities, that avoids the resource curse that we’ve seen happening in some mining countries around the world.”
On climate change, Mr Fernandez reiterated the US government’s commitment at COP-26 last year to contribute to the $100 billion assistance to developing countries, mostly in Africa, to mitigate effects of global warming.
“I’m proud to say that in the United States, President Biden doubled our commitment from $5.5 to over $11 billion,” he said, but did not disclose where the funds have been directed.
The official stated that the US is also interested in helping Africa increase vaccine production and will channel $1billion towards this end.
Fernandez stated that the American government is seeking to enter free trade deals with more African nations. This would be mutually advantageous and promote economic growth.
Currently, the US only has an agreement like this with Morocco in Africa. It has been in force since 2006.
“We think it’s both a business opportunity and a strategic imperative for US companies to participate in a market such as an African market that is a young market, a growing market, and will certainly be a principal part of our economic future going forward,” Mr Fernandez said.
Earlier, assistant US trade representative for African Affairs, Constance Hamilton, led a delegation to Kenya, seeking to “identify key areas of convergence that deepened mutual understanding between both countries.”