Washington, DC — Many of you are aware that the Tenth Corporate Council on Africa Biennial Business Summit held last week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was an enormous success. Officially, one thousand four hundred eighty-seven (1,487) participants registered for the event. The Summit took place within the United Nations Conference Centre in Addis with tight security. Addis Ababa is one of the most rapidly developing cities in Africa with construction seemingly everywhere. With a more liberal business environment, it can become one of the great cities of Africa rivaling any city on the continent. The Summit was co-hosted by the African Union, with the Chairman of the African Union, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma participating in the opening ceremony, along with Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn and Chairman of the Corporate Council on Africa Paul Hinks.
According to the Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, the conference was the largest US-led event ever held in Ethiopia.
In my opinion, biased, of course, the program content, under the leadership of Vice President of the Corporate Council on Africa Ambassador Robert Perry was excellent. It was forward thinking and covered most of the breadth of CCA program sectors, including our newest sector, tourism. The programs and the discussion therein helped set the course for the organization for the next two years and perhaps beyond. There is now a great amount of work to be done for our members and the US-Africa relationship. It is clear from this Summit that the Corporate Council on Africa has an important role to play in the future and the expectations of the Council and its members by African leaders and businessmen are high. We will need to strengthen many parts of the organization to be able to meet these expectations. To do this, we need to have you involved and providing information throughout the year regarding how we can better serve you.
There were many important markers during this Summit. Here are a few:
1. The Rockefeller Foundation chose the summit to announce its new agriculture program, designed to reduce food waste throughout Africa. They stated that this program would prove to be as important as the Green Revolution of the 1970s, which increased food production worldwide. A minimum of thirty percent of crops are wasted before they ever get to market, and the Rockefeller Foundation announced the steps of a new program to eliminate waste in the fields.
2. The COMESA Business Council, which is an equal partner and the private sector partner of COMESA, the largest and most effective regional organization in Africa signed an MOU with the Corporate Council on Africa that launches a new partnership on trade facilitation initiatives. The partnership will be modeled on a project CCA launched in 2014 to develop joint private sector recommendations on trade facilitation in East Africa, which has been central to the White House Trade Africa Initiative. The CCA-CBC partnership provided guidance for the meeting of the COMESA TIFA in Lusaka on February 8, 2016 and is designed to help facilitate trade in the COMESA region, as well as to provide private sector support for the Trade Africa initiative. It will be implemented through the CCA Trade Africa Working Group.
3. AGCO, a member of the Corporate Council on Africa used the summit to roll out its new revolutionary tractor, affordable and useable for villages and small farms throughout the continent. The low-maintenance, low-cost tractor has the potential to reduce the workload of farmers and villagers throughout Africa.
4. USTDA signed a financing agreement with the Government of Ethiopia during one of the workgroups in the conference.
5. CCA announced that the World Africa Tourism Conference, to be convened under its new division, the Africa Travel Association, will be in Rwanda in November 2016.
6. Our sister organizations of Canada, UK, Germany, Belgium, Turkey, Norway, Denmark, Hungary, UAE, Switzerland, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands met with CCA and selected African business organizations to map out our partnerships over the next two years as well. This will provide greater business contacts for our members.
There were, of course, hundreds of potential business deals being discussed during the summit in networking and social time. The conference space, plus the several new hotels in the area provided ample opportunity for private meetings. We left optimistic that Ethiopia will continue to be more open to US business in the future, while recognizing that there still is much work to be done.
To those members of CCA who participated and sponsored we are grateful. We had a record level of sponsorship and number of sponsors, and we hope that you share our belief that your faith in the Corporate Council was justified. Conferences are not our final product. They are a means to bring businesses together, many of whom would not meet otherwise. For us, our conferences define our work for the next two years. It is the time between events that we work most for your interests.
Again, thank you for your continuing support and we look forward to working with you throughout 2016.
Stephen Hayes is President and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa