Bloomberg on Eve of Summit: 'The Next Big Cities Will Be In Africa'

Sunday, 03 Aug 2014 04:40 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The U.S.-Africa Summit, opening Monday in Washington, will give businesses the opportunity to see the continent in a whole new light, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg explained on CBS's "Face the Nation"  Sunday.

"The goal is to explain to Americans and to American businesses the opportunity available in Africa," said Bloomberg, who appeared on the program with White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett to discuss the conference, which will welcome 50 African delegations, plus CEOs from more than 200 African and U.S. companies, in for three days of meetings.

And while Jarrett acknowledged that there has been some concern about the summit being held in the midst of the growing African Ebola virus scare, she insisted that the government and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working closely on the matter.

Further, she pointed out, the virus is not contagious unless people are actively exhibiting symptoms of the disease, and organizers of the summit "are confident it will be a huge success."

Bloomberg Philanthropies and the U.S. Commerce Department are sponsoring the U.S.-Africa Business Forum on Aug. 5, the second day of the three-day summit, being hosted by President Barack Obama, reports Politico. Former President Bill Clinton will moderate the business forum section.

Bloomberg said the summit and business forum are a welcome opportunity to show American businesses that the African continent can be used for more than just gathering natural resources, but can be marketed for commerce, education, medical care, and more.

"We can be real partners, rather than just being a patron of one another," he said. China understands the potential, and has been expanding its markets into Africa's countries and cities, he said.

One of China's interests, said Bloomberg is that Africa has become a place "where they are spending the highest percentage of their gross domestic product in the world on education."

And he expects that in the years to come, Africa will prosper as a result.

"You're going to create a middle class there that will want products," he said. "The next big cities will be in Africa."

But meanwhile, China is outpacing the United States in Africa, Bloomberg said, but "in all fairness to the Obama administration," that issue is being recognized.

Jarrett said the summit will allow Americans to stop looking at Africa as a place in need of foreign aid, "but as a place in need of investment."

Bloomberg said there has been tremendous response from businesses to the news about the summit.

"When we started inviting heads of major corporations, almost nobody said no," said Bloomberg. "Businesses have been in Africa for years. They never get involved in ideology. They just look for markets, and that's what they're supposed to do."

Obama, son of a Kenyan man and an American woman, said Friday that the importance of the summit needs to be understood, reports Bloomberg News.

"Africa is growing and you’ve got thriving markets and you’ve got entrepreneurs and extraordinary talent among the people there," said Obama, whose administration reports more than $900 million in deals are expected to be signed as a result of focusing on business development for Africa.

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