Leaders from almost 50 African countries and the United States met in Washington DC on Monday, kicking off a three day conference that hopes to boost trade between the US and the largely untapped African continent. The summit highlights the realization by many US officials that greater attention needs to be paid to African countries who hold great economic potential. Leaders at the summit expect many trade and business deals to be signed during the three day conference, with some estimating that over $1 billion worth of deals will be announced by Wednesday. With these deals in hand, US African trade relationships could increase greatly in the coming years.

A major reason behind the United States calling this summit has been China’s growing influence in the African continent. China’s imports from Africa have been increasing steadily over the past ten years, shooting up to $88 billion in 2013, while during the same time imports to the United States have decreased. The United States does not want to lose any more ground in Africa to China, and hopes that this summit will bring about new strategies and trade relationships to increase investment in Africa.

China’s investment in Africa has helped drive up global demand for African products, giving glimpses of the continent’s economic potential. As foreign investment continues to increase, internal stability for African nations will also increase, prompting improvements in infrastructure which will bring further investment. Another reason for optimism has been Africa’s fast growing middle class, as seen in countries such as Nigeria and Kenya. As the middle class continues to grow, demand for foreign goods and products has also increased, giving American companies reason to expand into the continent. If the summit goes as planned, look for the United States to increase economic activity in many African countries over the next few years, establishing trade relations for what could be a bright future for Africa.

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