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The White House released in August 2022 the US strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Its renewed policy supports four main objectives, including advancing pandemic recovery and economic opportunity.
A priority and opportunity
SSA is of growing importance on the world stage. Comprising 49 countries, the region is a geopolitical priority and an emerging economic opportunity. SSA countries hold roughly 25% of United Nations General Assembly seats. Moreover, the region is integrating into the world’s largest free trade area.
The US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration describes SSA as presenting real opportunity, with indicators such as:
- A combined market population of over 1.2 billion people (that is expected to double by 2050),
- A gross domestic product of more than US$1.5 trillion, and
- Home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
The World Bank reports that economic activity in the area is set to expand by 3.6% in 2022, 3.9% in 2023, and 4.2% in 2024. Additionally, its young population makes SSA an attractive investment destination. Massive demographic shifts in this part of the world provide tremendous opportunities to create jobs, boost incomes, and reduce poverty, especially in a global environment of slowing growth.
China and its growing influence in the region
The world is well aware of Africa’s importance, encouraging countries to expand their political, economic, and security engagement with African states. In the past 20 years, new actors, such as China, have been shifting dynamics across SSA. And Chinese influence in the region is real and significant.
In 2001, China received less than 3% of the region’s exports, compared to nearly 19% for the US. In 2009, China overtook the US as SSA’s largest trading partner. Almost 20 years later, China has emerged as the region’s single greatest export partner, holding an 11% share of exports in 2019, while the US share dropped to 5%. China’s Belt and Road Initiative has invested in SSA through transportation, power, water supply, and other infrastructure projects. China has also provided loans, investments, and aid.
The US reframes its Sub-Saharan Africa partnership
The US is responding to growing foreign activity and influence in SSA and is engaging a region undergoing significant transformation. “It would be a strategic mistake for the US to abandon its engagement with SSA altogether—especially as US adversaries and competitors are relentlessly increasing their investment in the region…” said Daniel Runde, Director of the Project on Prosperity and Development, and Sundar Ramanujam, Research Associate of the Project on Prosperity and Development at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS).
Biden’s policy differs from those of previous administrations because it focuses on overhauling its relationship with SSA from donor-recipient to genuine partnership. “Biden’s team extols Africa’s strengths and is proposing US-Africa partnerships on a range of issues,” said Mark Bellamy, Senior Advisor of the Africa Program at CSIS.
Further, Devex reports that the strategy has generally been well-received and is seen as sending a strong message about US engagement in the region. “It’s a strategy that reflects the region’s complexity—its diversity, its power, and its influence—and one that focuses on what we will do with African nations and peoples, not for African nations and peoples,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as he announced the strategy.
It’s also an effort to make regional engagement authentic and not just a battleground to compete with China and Russia. “Too often, African nations have been treated as instruments of other nations’ progress rather than the authors of their own,” added Blinken in his announcement.
Why this matters to employers
With the intent of the US to reestablish ties and reinvest in SSA, employers with a presence in the region can anticipate a significant shift in the labor market in years to come. Monitoring the labor market as early as possible is critical for your organization to seize economic opportunities and remain competitive. Keeping an eye on market shifts enables your organization to plan and make informed decisions about hiring, pay management, employee benefits, and more.
How we can help
We at Birches Group survey leading employers in over 150 countries with a consistent methodology designed for dynamic, emerging markets across SSA. We survey labor markets of varying sizes, focusing on employers that set trends. Get updated and relevant data on every country in SSA. Speak with our consultants today to understand our data and how you can use it for your organization.