US Commerce boss Kenya visit shows Obama's deeper engagement  

Friday November 23 2012


The United States Commerce Department announced on Wednesday that its chief will visit Kenya next week.

The trip by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank is the first sign since President Obama's re-election of deeper US engagement with Kenya and other African nations.

It will mark the first visit to sub-Saharan Africa in 10 years by the holder of this US cabinet office.

American corporate executives with interests in Africa have repeatedly warned that China's greater degree of involvement with the continent is putting US businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

Acting Secretary Blank plans to meet with President Kibaki and other East African Community (EAC) Heads of State.

The US recognises that "the EAC in particular is a strategic market for trade and investment with significant long-term growth potential," the Commerce Department said.

As part of President Obama's US-Africa economic development strategy, his administration is pursuing a trade and investment partnership arrangement with the EAC, the department noted.

"Acting Secretary Blank will promote many of the partnership initiatives on her trip, including the launch of a new EAC-US commercial dialogue," the department said.

The trip will also launch the Obama administration's "Doing Business in Africa" campaign that aims in part to promote US exports to sub-Saharan Africa.

"The Department of Commerce has an important role to play when it comes to helping American companies understand the trade and investment opportunities in Africa that will not only support the region’s economic expansion, but will also create jobs in America," Acting Secretary Blank said on Wednesday.

She is also scheduled to visit South Africa.

Representatives of 15 US firms will also travel to South Africa and Zambia as part of what the Commerce Department calls "a multi-sector trade mission."