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Desk-Cash

President Obama has begun touting his upcoming “U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit” as an opportunity for African nations “to become partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children.”

The event, according to the White House, will “build’ on the president’s trip to Africa in the summer of 2013 in which U.S. taxpayers paid $60 to $100 million for the Obama family’s lavish comforts and entertainment.

While the summit’s official theme is “Investing in the Next Generation,” a close inspection reveals that U.S. taxpayers again ultimately will pay for a combination of business subsidies and foreign assistance for which there is little or no return on “investments.”

Indeed, the venues for these handout sessions have fallen beneath the radar of the White House website’s official summit page, which does not even include them under its “side events” listing.

Prior to the Aug. 4-6 meeting in Washington, D.C., with Obama and other U.S. dignitaries and business leaders – which includes a “spouses symposium” Michelle Obama is conducting with former first lady Laura Bush – dozens of African officials will join transportation and energy corporate interests in dual giveaway gatherings elsewhere.

Coordinating these side events is the U.S. Trade & Development Agency, or USTDA, an independent White House agency whose main function is to subsidize U.S. businesses’ global trips to conduct infrastructure, energy and other major-project analyses on behalf of foreign aid recipients.

USTDA once again will leverage the Business Council for International Understanding, or BCIU, to carry out the “transport” segment of the paired conferences. BCIU, though a tax-exempt corporate entity established under the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration, typically receives hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up such gatherings.

Indeed, the agency recently leveraged BCIU’s global event-planning expertise for its ConnectMEX event, which presented options for the government of Mexico to tap into the U.S. Treasury for its planned $100 billion transportation infrastructure endeavor, as WND reported.

Not only have American taxpayers already subsidized many of the Mexican project plans via USTDA grants and studies, they also footed the bill for a $100,000 “Resource Guide for U.S. Industry on Priority Infrastructure Projects.”

In addition to providing guidance to U.S. corporations, the guide likewise directs the Mexican government to consider various sources of U.S. government-affiliated funding sources such as the Export-Import Bank, or Ex-Im Bank, and Overseas Private Investment Corporation, or OPIC.

Next stop: Windy City

Chicago, Obama’s adopted hometown, is one of two stops on the USTDA African gravy train, an event officially known as the African Leaders Visits, or ALV.

The administration claims Chicago is the most appropriate venue to promote the U.S. rail and aviation sectors. USTDA says it will utilize the location to share with its African counterparts U.S. experience in “accelerating economic growth via infrastructure investments.”

“Chicago’s economic strength, like many cities throughout the United States, was built by its strong transportation connections to trading partners across the country and around the world,” the government explains.

“Its aviation and rail links have enabled an interior city to become a major port for the movement of goods and passengers.”

The governments of Algeria, Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa, all of whom are planning or considering major transportation-infrastructure projects, are expected to have representatives attending the “transport” event. Officials from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa free-trade area also are invited.

USTDA simultaneously is arranging for African officials to meet in Houston with energy industry representatives.

Delegates from Kenya, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania – all whom are “facing important decisions on how best to develop significant recent natural gas discoveries” – will meet with industry representatives and financiers in the “Energy Capital of the World,” as Houston is known.

Representatives from the Arab Maghreb Union, the East African Community and the Economic Community of West African States likewise were invited to participate in the event, “which will include tours of major gas infrastructure sites near Houston.”

The administration selected Houston as the logical venue to host its African visitors because almost half of the city’s economic activity is driven by the energy industry.

“In recent years, new natural gas discoveries have prompted the development of infrastructure that has maximized the area’s resources and created an economic boom.”

USTDA has contracted with the Webster Group, a Washington, D.C.-based vendor, to provide logistics for the Houston gathering.

Both the Chicago and Houston events take place July 30-Aug.1. The agency is encouraging interested parties to submit questions and comments to program participants via Twitter, using the respective hashtags #ALVTransport and #ALVEnergy.

USTDA: ‘Duplicative and wasteful’

While USTDA arguably is a relatively small agency – with a fiscal 2014 budget request just under $63 million – it consistently faces criticism along with calls for closure. Former Republican Rep. Ron Paul and free-market think tanks such as the Cato Institute regularly denounce it as among the most duplicative and wasteful of all federal entities.

USTDA, Ex-Im Bank and OPIC consequently are among the most egregious examples of “corporate welfare waste,” the Cato Institute concluded in a 2005 report. These and similar organizations should be terminated, Cato analysts have said.

Among recent initiatives that the agency is pursuing in or inclusive of Africa is an Energy Sector Planning Services initiative offering contracts valued up to $50 million over five years.

This arrangement will enable USTDA “to respond quickly to U.S. business interests and foreign project sponsor needs in the energy sector,” the agency said in a solicitation that WND discovered via routine database research.

Although the agency revealed the “indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity,” or IDIQ, award last month, it actually awarded contracts in March.

The awardees are the Kaizen Company, Numark Associates, Tetra Tech ES,Parsons Government Services, CH2M Hill; Innovation Network, Power Engineers, Delphos Int., Worley Parsons, Energy Markets Group, Black and Veatch, NOVI Energy, ICF Int.,E3 Int. and 3E Consulting.

The contractors will provide industry and government assistance in Sub-Saharan Africa and four other designated regions around the globe.

Another agency initiative involves financing a “feasibility study” on behalf of a Nigerian power company.

Royal Power Integrated & General Services Ltd. will use a $667,000 grant to hire a U.S. contractor to perform the study, which will help the company obtain a license from the federal government of Nigeria to build a gas-fired power plant in Lagos State.

The agency separately is hiring an African Business Development Manager who will be based in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the selected individual contractor will be tasked with identifying possible project opportunities eligible for USTDA grants and technical assistance.

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