US President Barack Obama has pledged to work to boost trade and commerce between the United States and Africa through a new initiative called Trade Africa.

Speaking at a business leaders forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania last night (1 July), he said the move would start with the East African Community (EAC) and include negotiations on a regional investment treaty. 

"We’ll launch a new program to facilitate trade by focusing on moving goods across borders faster and cheaper. We’ll work with the countries involved to modernise customs, move to single more efficient border crossings, reduce bottlenecks, reduce the roadblocks that stymie the flow of goods to market," he said.

Goals include increasing East African exports to the US under AGOA (the African Growth and Opportunity Act) by 40%, and doubling trade within East Africa. 

However, he also said that while AGOA - which is set to expire in September 2015 -needs to be renewed, "work needs to be done to make it more effective."

He explained: "Today, the vast majority of our trade with Africa is with just three countries - South Africa, Nigeria and Angola. We need to broaden that. We need to make sure more Africans are taking advantage of the opportunity to export to the United States.

"And one of the best ways to do that is to make sure more African goods can compete in the global marketplace. And that means more opportunities for small and medium-sized companies, and entrepreneurs, and merchants and farmers, including women."

He also emphasised that African governments are going to have to take the lead, and those willing to to the "hard wrok of the necessary reforms" to create a vibrant market economy and business environment will benefit most.