Washington - A leading US business group on Monday said it
was creating a new body called the US-South Africa Business Council as part of
a broader effort to respond to increased competition throughout Africa from
China, Europe and others."We need to elevate the business community's game in
the continent. We have American investment there, but we have fallen behind
frankly in the last 10 years," Myron Brilliant, senior vice president at
the US Chamber of Commerce, said.
The initiative is the latest US effort to make up lost
ground in Africa, which this year is home to many of the fastest-growing
economies in the world.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the continent
in August and acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank just returned from a
trip to South Africa and Kenya.
It also comes at a time when South Africa continues to
struggle with high employment and widespread poverty, two decades after the end
of the apartheid era that lifted people's hope for a better life.
"The goal of both countries is create jobs, among other
things. Jobs and economic growth," US Under Secretary of State Robert
Hormats said. "We really see this (new council) as part of a
two-way win-win process where we can strengthen trade ties and investment."
US companies that invest in the South Africa, the biggest
economy on the continent, will be in a better position to compete throughout
Africa, Hormats said.
Charter members of the US-South Africa Council include US
beverage giant Coca-Cola, engineering and construction firm Black & Veatch
and drug manufacturer Eli Lilly and Co, as well as smaller firms such as Solar
Reserve, a solar energy project development company.
US companies see business opportunities in sectors such as
mining, finance, communications, energy, transportation and infrastructure
development, said Scott Eisner, vice president for African affairs at the US
Chamber of Commerce.
"There has been in shift in thinking in corporate
America towards Africa. The Chinese owned the better part of the last decade
when it came to investment there" and got the attention of US corporate
and government leaders, Eisner said.
The US business community will use the new council as a
vehicle to get into other emerging markets in Africa, such as Mozambique with
its plentiful natural gas resources and Botswana with its huge coal reserves,