WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) — All eyes around the world have been on Africa lately due to the Ebola virus outbreak, but in Washington, the talk has all been surrounding the importance of doing business with Africa.
President Barack Obama’s mega-summit from African leaders in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday is intended to be an economic shot in the arm for New York City. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the sponsors of the summit, said he is hoping to bring millions of dollars in business deals to the city.
CBS 2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer spoke with Bloomberg in his first major interview with a local TV station since he left office at the end of last year.
When he was mayor, Bloomberg was all about expanding the economy was all about expanding the economy, climate change, and public health. Not much has changed, except now as one of the country’s top businessmen, he is focused on opening up the African market for America and specifically for New York.
“There’s a market of 600 million people in Africa. That’s a big market for us to sell our products that America makes too, and there’s a big middle class growing, and they have the same interest in luxury goods and commodity goods,” Bloomberg said.
But it is not a one-way street.
“They make a lot of products we want to buy,” the former mayor said. “Remember for Americans, we want jobs, and we want great products at affordable prices. One of the things about doing business in a place like Africa is you sell more products. Therefore, you create jobs.”
With Bloomberg and the U.S. Department of Commerce as hosts, some 200 African and American businesspeople, as well as heads of state, attended the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington, D.C.
Sources told CBS 2’s Kramer they will be announcing some $900 million in deals, a significant portion of which involve New York businesses. And since New York has the largest African diaspora in the U.S., the increased trade deals will also benefit them, conference attendees said.
Former President Bill Clinton moderated one part of the forum, saying “we all want more trade,” and business opportunities are vast.
“Five percent have a credit card, so there are lots of obvious options here,” Clinton said.
And as the man who ran a city deemed the number one terror target in the world, Bloomberg made the point that economic development discourages terror.
“The more that people have opportunity, the more they get a chance to get a good education, and be in charge of their own destiny, it’s a lot less likely for terrorism and those other things to take hold,” Bloomberg said.
Obama was set to host a dinner at the White House for African heads of state. Current Mayor Bill de Blasio was also set to attend.
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