WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration on Tuesday announced $14 billion in commitments from U.S. businesses to invest in Africa, as representatives from nearly 100 American and African companies gathered in Washington to discuss ways to boost economic partnerships.
"Africa has now developed into a global economic force so our relationship must evolve and mature," said Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and a billionaire businessman.
Indeed, Africa's economy is enjoying rapid advancement. The continent is home to six of the world's fastest-growing economies. And a decade of solid growth has created a middle class with increased spending power -- 350 million strong in 2010 by the African Development Bank's count, up from 220 million in 2000.
Other nations, most notably China, have been moving aggressively to tap into growing African markets. China surpassed the U.S. as Africa's largest trading partner in 2009.
"We also realize we have some catching up to do," Bloomberg said. "We are letting Europe and China go faster than the U.S."
President Barack Obama was scheduled to address the business summit Tuesday afternoon. The American companies represented at the daylong meeting include Chevron, Coca-Cola Company, IBM and MasterCard.
The White House did not provide a specific breakdown of the $14 billion in new commitments from U.S. companies, but said the money focused on construction, clean energy, banking, information technology and other sectors.
The business forum is part of a broader U.S.-Africa summit being held in Washington this week. Nearly 50 African heads of state are in Washington for the three-day conference.
Beyond boosting business ties, the summit also focuses on security partnerships and supporting a new generation of African leaders.
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