(In fifth paragraph, corrects to read "unemployment" instead of
WASHINGTON Dec 10 A leading U.S. business group
on Monday said it was creating a new body called the U.S.-South
Africa Business Council as part of a broader effort to respond
to increased competition throughout Africa from China, Europe
"We need to elevate the business community's game in the
continent. We have American investment there, but we have fallen
behind frankly in the last 10 years," Myron Brilliant, senior
vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said.
The initiative is the latest U.S. effort to make up lost
ground in Africa, which this year is home to many of the
fastest-growing economies in the world.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the
continent in August and acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca
Blank just returned from a trip to South Africa and Kenya.
The initiative also comes at a time when South Africa
continues to struggle with high unemployment and widespread
poverty, nearly two decades after the end of apartheid lifted
people's hopes for a better life.
"The goal of both countries is create jobs, among other
things. Jobs and economic growth," U.S. Under Secretary of State
Robert Hormats told Reuters. "We really see this (new council)
as part of a two-way win-win process where we can strengthen
trade ties and investment."
U.S. companies that invest in South Africa, the biggest
economy on the continent, will be in a better position to
compete throughout Africa, Hormats said.
Charter members of the U.S.-South Africa Council include
U.S. beverage giant Coca-Cola, engineering and construction firm
Black & Veatch and drug manufacturer Eli Lilly and Co, as well
as smaller firms such as Solar Reserve, a solar energy project
U.S. companies see business opportunities in sectors such as
mining, finance, communications, energy, transportation and
infrastructure development, said Scott Eisner, vice president
for African affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
"There has been in shift in thinking in corporate America
towards Africa. The Chinese owned the better part of the last
decade when it came to investment there" and got the attention
of U.S. corporate and government leaders, Eisner said.
The U.S. business community will use the new council as a
vehicle to get into other emerging markets in Africa, such as
Mozambique with its plentiful natural gas resources and Botswana
with its huge coal reserves, he said.
(Reporting By Doug Palmer; Editing by Eric Walsh)