Panellists at a recent US Ex-Im meeting concluded that China’s heightened commercial activity in Sub-Saharan Africa is a key challenge for US companies, but it shouldn’t put them off trading and investing in the region.


Attendees of US Ex-Im’s Sub-Saharan Africa Advisory Committee (SAAC) spoke of the need to encourage US-China-Africa cooperation, and agreed that more efforts needed to be made to teach US companies about how to do business in Africa. US commercial presence in Africa is fairly low-profile compared to China, with China-Africa trade growing at a faster rate than US-Africa trade.


“It is important that the United States, China and Africa understand each other so that we may work together to ensure that our trade activities benefit exporters, African buyers and our national interests,” remarks James Lambright, president and chairman of US Ex-Im.
Others talking at the meeting included Witney Schneidman, president of Schneidman & Associates International and director of the Africa-China-US trilateral dialogue study. Schneidman stated that there was no strategic conflict between the US and China. “The fact that the US and China are business competitors is not a negative. It can result in new technologies and skills being brought to Africa, and jobs created there. Africa can benefit from trade with all countries, especially the US and China, to generate revenues to contribute to economic development and stronger institutions,” he says.


Daeman Harris, vice-president, Middle East and Africa at the US chamber of commerce was also present at the meeting.


He covered China’s aggressive export promotion in Africa, as well as some of the more negative aspects of Chinese exports, such as counterfeit products and theft of intellectual property.


Fellow panellist Anthony Carroll, vice-president, Manchester Trade also commented on how China’s 20 to 30-year financing terms presented a “real threat” to US commercial interests.


But he added: “Here’s the good news: Africa’s rapid growth offers new opportunities; the US enjoys technology dominance in areas including aviation, transportation and environmental exports; and we can look for new ways to collaborate with China on our respective strengths.”


However, he also called for a more level playing field for US and Chinese companies, by arguing that China should be held accountable to World Trade Organisation rules, as well as OECD regulations.