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US, Africa Business Forum Planned for Atlanta in October

Hundreds of political and business leaders from Africa and the United States are scheduled to attend a three-day business and investment forum in October the southeastern U.S. city of Atlanta. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa reports from Abuja the conference is intended to showcase Africa's potential and business capacity.

Organizers say the U.S. - Africa Business Summit 2008 will provide a platform for American investors and their African counterparts to forge partnerships.

Some say Africa is rapidly becoming the investment destination of the world.

Tunde Adetunji, the Nigerian-born American head of the African Heritage Foundation, the main event sponsor, says the conference will expose American entrepreneurs to Africa and the inherent opportunities that abound.

"Africa is the cradle of civilization, but little or nothing is known about the potential of Africa," said Adetunji. "But with this particular conference and expo, it will now let more people know what areas they need to participate in the African economy. I am talking about what is needed in Africa now, in the area of transportation, the health care industry, power generation, the petroleum industry, clothing and apparel, food and beverages. We believe that this particular project will bridge the gap and build that bridge."

The three-day 'Bridging the Gap and Building the Bridge' forum will include industry-specific sessions, networking opportunities, and panels. The 2008 summit will also feature a major trade exposition, where both African and U.S. participants will showcase their products, services and opportunities. Atlanta will also see the opening of its first African village.

The African Union is a co-sponsor and Tunde sees the initiative as one of the best opportunities to promote business and trade links between Africa and the United States.

"Since this is a conference and a project that is endorsed by the African Union, we envisage the participation of all the ... African countries. We envisage private investors, entrepreneurs, chambers of commerce, export promotion councils, manufacturers; people that want to discover new grounds in the area of technology, manufacturing; decision-makers in the agro-allied to be present," aded Adetunji. "I believe that with the exchange of views, exchange of ideas it would benefit both parties."

With the passage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, AGOA, the opportunities for American agribusinesses looking to enter or expand their presence in Africa are increasing.

AGOA has helped to boost two-way trade between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa by 17 percent from 2005 to 2006, reaching more than $70 billion, with growth both in U.S. exports and imports from the region. Total U.S. imports from Africa increased to $60 billion with U.S. exports to Africa increasing to $12 billion.