NEW YORK —
While there may be conflicts, poverty and disease in Africa, President Barack Obama says the broader trajectory of the continent is unmistakable: “Africa is on the move."
At the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in New York, Obama said Africa is "home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world and a middle class projected to grow to more than a billion customers - an Africa of telecom companies and clean-tech startups and Silicon savannahs, all powered by the youngest population anywhere on the planet.”
One of those young Africans, Frances Udukwu from Nigeria, told VOA what she hopes to highlight during her one-year reign as Miss Africa USA.
“So besides exposing the beauty, the talent and the capabilities of the African women in the diaspora, I see my duty as Miss Africa USA as an opportunity to impact where I am from, which is my homeland in Africa. But also to pay respects to where I reside which is the United States.”
She added “My personal favorite is being able to touch the lives of many young girls and women across not only Africa, but in the States as well,” Udukwu said.
Participants Frances Udukwu (L), Miss Africa USA and founder of The Lead Girl Foundation, and Omolola Adele-Oso, co-founder and executive director of Act4Accountability are seen at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in New York, Sept. 21, 2016. (C. Saine/VOA)
Udukwu attended Temple University in Philadelphia and studied public health.
Only 26 years old, she recently founded a non-profit, The Lead Girl Foundation, to help girls and young women make a life for themselves through entrepreneurship and vocational training. She lives in Washington, D.C., plans to go to law school, and travels to Nigeria often.
Seeking trade partnerships
Obama told the business forum that everywhere he travels in Africa, “from Senegal to South Africa, Africans insist they do not just want aid, they want trade. They want partners, not patrons.”
And that is what Wednesday’s forum, hosted by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker was all about - helping investors and entrepreneurs from both continents connect, as Obama explained: “This is a U.S.-Africa business forum. This is not charity. All of you should be wanting to make money, and create great products and great services, and be profitable, and do right by your investors. But the good news is, in Africa right now, if you are doing well, you can also be doing a lot of good.”
Obama said during his eight years as president, he has sought to transform the relationship between the U.S. and Africa to one of equal partners. He said this is his last U.S.-Africa Business Forum as president, but he will likely be back as a private citizen.
Apart from increased private investment, the U.S. government has also expanded its presence and economic engagement in Africa
Since 2008, the Commerce Department has doubled its presence on the continent, opening new offices in Angola, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Mozambique, expanding its presence in Ghana, and re-establishing a presence at the African Development Bank.