President Barack Obama on Friday is scheduled to announce a new initiative that will encourage private companies to play a larger role in helping African nations achieve food security. The multi-billion dollar effort will include at least 45 companies at its initiation, including such major U.S. names as PepsiCo.
U.S Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Michael Froman told reporters in advance of Obama's announcement that food security in Africa has been a priority for the President since he initially took office.
So in advance of the G8 Summit over the weekend, Obama is expected to announce a major public-private partnership to bring those initiatives "to the next level."
"Trade and investment are playing an increasing role in complimenting aid," Froman said, speaking both in terms of food and economic development.
The new initiative, Froman stressed, is "not about replacing aid" but there are ways for the private sector to supplement what is already happening.
Administrator Raj Shah of the U.S. Agency for International Development said that in recent years development in Africa has "seen real progress" particularly in the agricultural sector, which he said has grown at eight times the global average.
If successful, Shah said, these agricultural public-private partnerships have the potential to "protect millions of people from needing food aid."
Shah also stressed that the U.S. would continue to maintain a high level of public involvement - while also pressing other G8 countries to do the same or increase their levels of pre-existing commitments.
Shah said that President Obama is expected to announce that at least 45 companies - a little less than half of which are African - are making concrete commitments to the partnership. PepsiCo, Shah said, is one of the major U.S. companies planning to join in Obama's commitment.
Neither administration official was willing to place a specific figure as to how much money would ultimately be committed, though Shah said it could easily top $3 billion.
Much of the emphasis going forward will be in a sector that Shah said has already shown promise - assisting small farmers, often women. One such initiative is the pledge of an African company to parcel its seeds in smaller packages so as to make them more affordable.
"We believe it is possible to move 50 million people out of poverty and hunger," he said.
Other initiatives will be efforts to help mitigate, in advance, the possibilities of future droughts and the opening of the first major fertilizer factory in the continent.
Shah said that he is confident that the public and private sectors will ultimately overcome the skepticism that sometimes accompanies grandiose announcements and make real progress.
Froman noted that having a G8 Summit devote time to Africa is not new, but that it was the president's decision to ensure that the Africa discussions at this particular summit focus on agricultural issues.
by RTT Staff Writer
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