When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton landed in South Africa this week, she brought along a hefty delegation of executives from some of America’s leading companies — Boeing, Walmart, FedEx, G.E. — and a message: America is ready to invest in Africa.
But these companies need no introduction to the continent, which is home to 7 of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies. They are already here. Earlier this year, Walmart finalized a deal worth more than $2 billion to acquire 51 percent of South Africa’s leading retailer, MassMart. In March, G.E. signed a deal to build $10 billion worth of power plants in Nigeria over the next decade. Six hundred American companies have invested in South Africa alone.
Mrs. Clinton’s trip, expected to stretch over the better part of two weeks and nine countries, reflects the shifting image of the continent and the deepening political, economic and security stakes at play here. There was a time in the not-too-distant past when a trip to Africa by a senior United States official would focus largely on humanitarian aid and development assistance to hopelessly poor, war-torn nations.
No more. These days, the continent is widely seen as the next frontier for economic growth. Politically, African votes are sometimes crucial in the United Nations, particularly South Africa’s. On the security front, alliances with African governments to fight terrorism and piracy are very important to the United States.