USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack joined President Obama, members of Congress and other U.S. government officials to welcome African heads of state and government leaders for the first-ever Africa Leaders Summit this week, taking time during the summit to introduce funding for export credit guarantees that is expected to enhance trade between the U.S. and Africa and four new partners in the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition initiative.
The funding, up to $1 billion in export credit guarantees, is part of President Obama's "Doing Business in Africa" campaign.
The President's campaign encourages U.S. commercial engagement in Africa by harnessing the resources of the U.S. government to assist businesses in "identifying and seizing opportunities and to engage with members of the African Diaspora in the United States," USDA said.
USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation will make the funding available to export U.S. agricultural commodities to Africa over the next two years. The Department, which currently works with nine eligible banks in 49 African countries, will also conduct outreach seminars to Africa in 2015 to promote the use of its credit guarantee program for the export of U.S. agricultural products.
Also announced were four new partners in the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition initiative – The Ghana Open Data Initiative, Sierra Leone, IBM and Kellogg Company.
The four will join more than 100 GODAN partners who work to make agricultural and nutritional data available, accessible and useable for unrestricted use worldwide.
Launched in October 2013, GODAN – the first global open data initiative spanning public and private entities – supports efforts to make agriculturally and nutritionally relevant data available for public global use. Open data on agriculture, nutrition and food systems, USDA says, can be a "powerful tool" for long-term sustainable development by improving farmers' economic opportunities and consumers' health.
"At its core, this Summit is about fostering stronger ties between the United States and Africa," Vilsack said. "USDA looks forward to further partnering with African nations through the GODAN initiative, and with the new trade opportunities that new financing guarantees will make possible."
Advancing soy trade >>
Also during the Summit, representatives from the American Soybean Association's World Initiative for Soy in Human Health program met with African officials to discuss the program's current and future plans in the area.
WISHH Executive Director Jim Hershey and WISHH Chairman Andy Welden were "heartened," ASA said, on USDA's efforts to encourage expansion of trade to more African countries through trade missions, financing programs and larger teams on the ground to facilitate business between the U.S. and Africa.
The WISHH program has been building links between U.S. soy exporters and importers in seven countries—a list that is growing, ASA says. In 2014, exports of U.S. isolated soy protein, soy flour and textured soy protein has exceeded $1 million to countries such as Burkina Faso, Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal. One such market, Uganda, has imported more than $200,000 of soy protein the past three years.
In partnership with USDA FAS and utilizing FAS funding through the Globally Based Initiative and Foreign Market Development program, ASA said WISHH is reaching out to a growing list of countries promoting the use of U.S. soy protein in foods. WISHH farmer leaders also directed the program to develop connections with the feed and livestock sectors in targeted countries.
Thanks to funding from USDA's Emerging Markets Program WISHH has developed a strategy to promote trade in U.S. soy to the feed, poultry and aquaculture sectors in Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal.
Welden, a farmer from Jonesville, Mich., highlighted, "Soy in food is great, but worldwide, chickens eat a lot more soy than people do, and Africa won't be any different once they see its use and value."
Sources: ASA, USDA
Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated that the export credit guarantees would be allocated to new GODAN partners. The current version corrects the error.