Bill Clinton: America has 'barely scratched the surface' on African investment
August 5th, 2014
11:03 AM ET
9 years ago

Bill Clinton: America has 'barely scratched the surface' on African investment

Washington (CNN) – With the vast majority of African leaders in town for a White House summit on the future of the continent, former President Bill Clinton said Tuesday that partnering with African business is a "massive opportunity for American business."

Clinton, who moderated the opening panel at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, said that although the conventional wisdom is that Africa needs the United States far more than America needs Africa, the reality is that the U.S. business community "needs this relationship as much or more as Africa and its business community.”

[twitter-follow screen_name='danmericacnn'][twitter-follow screen_name='politicalticker']

"We are missing the boat," Clinton said. "This is a very important part of our future."

Clinton's comments are part of a concerted effort by U.S. leaders and politicians to court African business and herald the continent's progress at the summit.

President Barack Obama has been at the forefront of that pitch, telling reporters on Friday that "the importance of this for America needs to be understood." He later added that Africa "happens to be one of the continents where America is most popular and people feel a real affinity for our way of life."

The pitch to Africa is more than just an economic relationship with the United States. Obama and other U.S. officials have said the United States needs to help Africa grow and benefit from ongoing progress.

In an opinion-editorial for the McClatchy newspaper group on Tuesday, Obama argued that the United States has a "moral obligation" to support Africa's progress.

Though Obama acknowledged the fact that "millions of Africans still endure the daily misery of grinding poverty, violent conflicts and the injustice of hunger and disease," he wrote that the United States "can’t lose sight of the extraordinary promise of Africa."

"And just as Africa is changing, we need to change the way we think about the continent, put aside old stereotypes and respond to Africans’ desire for a partnership of equals where Africans take the lead in their own development," Obama wrote.

The push comes at a strategically important time for the United States in Africa, given the fact that China has imported massive amounts of oil and minerals from the continent in the past 20 years.

In an interview with The Economist published last week, Obama recognized that fact. This week's conference is partly a pitch to counter China's rising influence.

"My advice to African leaders is to make sure that if, in fact, China is putting in roads and bridges, number one, that they're hiring African workers, number two, that the roads don't just lead from the mine to the port to Shanghai, but that there's an ability for the African governments to shape how this infrastructure is going to benefit them in the long term," Obama told The Economist.

Despite the positive tone of Clinton's opening roundtable – where business leaders heralded the opportunity for investment in Africa – a number of negative narratives also hang over this week’s summit.

Ebola has killed more than 700 people in three African nations: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. World health officials worry that the outbreak of the deadly disease could continue to get worse. Leaders from two nations – Liberia and Sierra Leone – cancelled their trip to Washington because of the health scare.

The Ebola outbreak has affected the conference on a practical level, too: Conference-goers who might have been exposed to the virus in their home country are being screened upon arrival to the United States.

The conference also plans to address growing political extremism on the African continent, where insurgents have overwhelmed some government forces, and created significant barriers to investment.

In addition to Clinton, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will address the conference at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C.

– CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

Filed under: Africa • Bill Clinton • President Obama
soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. Moderate Sean

    "It must be said"....maybe before you say it, you ensure what you are saying "IS THE TRUTH" and not some babble you love repeating!

    August 5, 2014 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    "Thank you for your usual useless comment, as most of your posts are."

    Yeah, because lord knows the post I was responding to, which accused Dems of not caring about immigration reform and border securing unless millions of Americans die from ebola brought here by an Al Qaeda terrorist via the Mexican border...that was certainly not completely insane and delusional nonsense and was a totally useful and worthwhile contribution to the discussion. It was DERP, plain and simple. You guys derp like it's going out of style. Don't be mad, brah. Own your derp.

    August 5, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  3. smith

    Fun fact of the day- From the FBI website, the top five states with the most incidents of gun violence are CA, TX, PA, MI, and Il. The bottom five are VT, HI, SD, ND, and WY.

    August 5, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |

    Lots of good hearted people in Africa. Its hard not to love the people and hopefully more companies will start investing over there. I have never seen people so poor that show so much joy and love for others.

    August 5, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  5. old age voter

    @ Rudy NYC; Ol' Yeller Not surprisingly, you're wrong. Look at ranking by city not state

    L.A., Chicago Rank 1 and 2 for Gun Murders; N.O. Has Highest Rate
    The Los Angeles and Chicago metropolitan areas had the most gun murders among the nation’s fifty most-populous metropolitan areas in 2009 and 2010 (the latest years for which data is available), according to a report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    The Los Angeles, Chicago and New York metropolitan areas also ranked one, two and three for the number of young people, ages 10-19, who were killed by guns in 2009-2010, with 251 10-19 year olds being gunned down in Los Angeles, 213 in Chicago and 203 in New York.

    The New Orleans metropolitan area, however, had the highest rate of gun murders, with 19 out of every 100,000 people in the area being gunned to death in 2009-2010.

    All Democratic city.

    August 5, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC


    As a nation in deep, deep debt, how is it possible to invest in another continent? For that matter, how will we invest in the thousands running to the US for refuge at this moment? NAFTA has resulted in almost no GDP for the US, Mexico, or Canada per the CFR.
    Good grief. They're talking about *private* investment. Do you folks have a comprehension problem? Or does your dislike of Pres. Obama completely trump your common sense?

    You folks are factually challenged, too. After a slow 1st quarter, US GDP ran at 4% for the 2nd quarter of this year.

    August 5, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  7. Klutch Cargo

    As long as we leave it to private enterprise. Third World Countries have been given tons of money and couldn't pay it back.

    August 5, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  8. Rick McDaniel

    Just who is going to compete with China, in Africa?

    China has already taken over the U.S. to start with. You can barely buy anything, now, that is made in the U.S.

    August 5, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  9. Tampa Tim

    Despite republican efforts to ruin our country with wars, tax cuts for the wealthy, and obstruction, we are not broke. 10 million new jobs under Obama, an end to unnecessary republican wars, bin Laden dead, auto and housing alive, etc. just has to ruin the gloom and doomers day.

    August 5, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  10. Malory Archer

    just asking
    primaries are by nature contentious. isn't it funny how all republican primary contests are painted as 'ugly' by the left wing media. but none of the democrat primaries are painted that way? i wonder why?


    Perhaps because Dem candidates don't get as ugly as the red candidates do. AND, unlike the sore losers on the right, Dem also-rans tend to NOT contest when they lose.

    August 5, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  11. Throw OUT all Democrat D-Baggers from Congress

    Why would any business invest in Africa because Obama and the Democrats think it is a good idea? If they did and then made profit, they would be the first to accuse them of exploiting Africans for a buck! How about Obama goes out to Hollywood and gets a bunch of his rich Hollywood elite supporters to contrbute millions to this cause instead of to the Democrats lie campaign? Come libs, put your money where your mouth is! Or is it just other peoples money you want to risk?\

    August 5, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  12. it must be said

    Tampa Tim
    It must be sad to be a wingnut -Ebola can only be transmitted though bodily fluids. Despite what Hannity tells you, you have nothing to worry about.

    Interesting... I wonder why CNN posted my comment originally and then took it down? It is a very real and valid concern.

    And do tell Mr. Tampon Timmie, if it is so hard to get and shouldn't be a concern, why are three African countries practically quarantined? You do realize spit is a bodily fluid right? Ever hear of a sneeze? You think that is just air?

    Clueless lefties as usual....

    August 5, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  13. Malory Archer

    Educate Yourself
    By going through some of the comments here, it seems there are those who have no knowledge at all of Africa. Ebola is in the the Western part of Africa. This doesn't mean the whole of Africa is infected. These people reminds me that woman who was not aware South Africa is the country.


    The other one that always makes me LOL is "Obama is an anti-krishun, antisemitic muslim".

    August 5, 2014 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  14. Malory Archer

    The other one that always makes me LOL is "Obama is an anti-krishun, antisemitic muslim".


    I wonder if the reds recognize the ironic error in that statement which they LOVE to toss around.

    August 5, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  15. Gurgyl

    -very shrewd guy. True, to what extent we need them to the same extent they need us. True, in fact they need USA more. We need to tell this truth to India and Indians–they behave arrogant nevertheless lot of people lack basic things and food. True. Pathetically they think one or two road construction represent the development–it is not.

    August 5, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  16. rs

    Tampa Tim

    The scariest political line today, "I'm a republican, I'm here to help."
    I thought their line is:" I'm a Republican, I'm here to shut down your government".

    August 5, 2014 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |

    With the GOP BAFFOONS in congress we have barely invested in our OWN COUNTRY . Look at the highway bill , barely managed to fund that for a short period. The GOP has GOT TO GO FOR THE GOOD OF AMERICA.

    August 5, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  18. rs

    The only time the GOP will sit up and take notice of the nations of the African continent will be when they can assist U.S. corporations in shipping U.S. jobs there- kind of like they are interested in China today. They are missing the opportunity Clinton mentions, as well as the possibility of doing good deeds, even as Mr. Bush did in the fight against AIDS.
    No, they'd rather spout fear and racism- about all they have been reduced to on the world's stage.

    August 5, 2014 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    old age voter

    @ Rudy NYC; Ol' Yeller Not surprisingly, you're wrong. Look at ranking by city not state

    L.A., Chicago Rank 1 and 2 for Gun Murders; N.O. Has Highest Rate
    Wazzat? I was talking exclusively about suicides, not homicides. It would seem that there are significant numbers of gun enthusiasts who are all too eager to blow their own brains out. I would like to stop some of them, if I could.

    You're looking at total gun homicides. I think they're talking about homicides per capita. It's highest in red states.

    August 5, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    old age voter

    @ Rudy NYC; Ol' Yeller Not surprisingly, you're wrong. Look at ranking by city not state
    What about towns? There are a few towns across the U.S. with disproportionately high per capita murder rates. Do you have any idea of what sort of towns that I am talking about? These towns have made for some tragic headlines.

    August 5, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "@ Rudy NYC; Ol' Yeller Not surprisingly, you're wrong. Look at ranking by city not state"

    That's cheating. You're talking about STATE gun laws that apply all over the STATE.

    And BTW, New Orleans having the highest rate is also pretty telling: Louisiana has the loosest gun safety laws in the country.

    August 5, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  22. ja

    Let's face Americans has never gravitated toward Africa as far as investing is concerned, wrong hue

    August 5, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  23. Rudy NYC


    Fun fact of the day- From the FBI website, the top five states with the most incidents of gun violence are CA, TX, PA, MI, and Il. The bottom five are VT, HI, SD, ND, and WY.
    Per capita statistics are more informative than raw numbers taken out of context. What year(s) are you talking about?

    I'd bet 10,000 Romney bucks that Department of Transportation statistics would show that the states with the most incidents of flat tires are also the most populous states.

    Check out suicides. It would appear that folks in red states are far more inclined to blow their own brains out.

    August 5, 2014 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  24. 2_indy1600

    On topic, I will simply say it is amazing how "facts" change on the internet in an election year. NAFTA was supposed to discourage emigration from Mexico, but Mexico has profited little. Roads in Africa to spread disease and terrorism, I presume. How do you invest in a country that is being colonized by China with China's money? Now THAT is transparent.

    August 5, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  25. Chris..E.Al

    That is a stupid chant .

    August 5, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
1 2 3