President Barack Obama acknowledged Friday that rival China has invested heavily in Africa, but said America can still compete in the fast-growing continent.
"This is not a zero-sum game. This is not the Cold War. You’ve got one global market, and if countries that are now entering into middle-income status see Africa as a big opportunity for them that can potentially help Africa," Obama told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One from Senegal to South Africa. "What we have going for us, though, is our values, our approach to development, our approach to democracy."
China overtook the U.S. as Africa’s largest trading partner years ago. It has helped pay for roads and bridges and bought 20 percent of Standard Bank of South Africa. Its president and vice president have visited more than 30 African countries in recent years.
"A lot of people are pleased that China is involved in Africa," Obama said. "On the other hand, they recognize that China’s primary interest is being able to obtain access for natural resources in Africa to feed the manufacturers in export-driven policies of the Chinese economy. And oftentimes that leaves Africa as simply an exporter of raw goods, not a lot of value added -- as a consequence, not a lot of jobs created inside of Africa, and it does not become the basis for long-term development."
"One of the main things that we want American companies to see is that Africa is ready to do business and that there’s huge potential there," he said. "What African countries have to do -- and this is a message I’m delivering consistently -- is ensure that there’s stability and good governance so that American companies can reduce some of those risks that have nothing to do with business and have to do with will they be able to get their profits out, will they have to pay a bribe, will they have to find ways to negotiate with bureaucracies endlessly."