CCA President Reflects on 'Very Successful" U.S.-Africa Business Summit

30 June 2019
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Corporate Council on Africa (Washington, DC)

Welcome to summer! We're just back from a very successful U.S.-Africa Business Summit, June 18-21 in Maputo.

We were delighted to host one king (Eswatini), four presidents (Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia), two vice presidents (Equatorial Guinea and Malawi), two prime ministers (Uganda and Lesotho) and delegations of an additional 15 countries headed by senior ministers of foreign affairs and trade/commerce from across the continent (including Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Rwanda, Angola, Ghana).

The morning of the 19th saw some remarkable statements from these illustrious representatives outlining what they would like to see in terms of the future of U.S.-African trade and investment ties.  It was very encouraging to hear many of them describe in detail how greater partnerships with U.S. companies fit in well with the African Union's ambitious 2063 development agenda, the rapidly moving African Continental Free Trade Agreement and their own national development plans.  The key message was that the door is very much open for American companies to come and look for opportunities to trade and invest.

We were also pleased hat the United States Government selected the Summit as the venue to announce the kickoff of Prosper Africa, the Administration's new program to expand trade and investment between the U.S. and Africa.  Deputy Secretary of Commerce Karen Kelley highlighted this program in her opening plenary speech, and USAID Administrator Mark Green provided more details in a keynote plenary after lunch on the 19th.

A number of key USG agencies fleshed out their respective roles in advancing Prosper Africa with a great panel on Friday morning, explaining how the various agencies work together to support U.S. companies doing business and investing in Africa.  The Prosper Africa team also held a series of B2G meetings to give individual companies greater individual details.

The Summit also provided a great opportunity to commemorate the conclusion of Anadarko's Final Investment Decision to develop its $20 billion natural gas field off Mozambique's coast.  Mozambique's President Nyusi and the company held a formal ceremony on the 18th, and the deal figured prominently in presentations at the Summit, including our LNG plenary and sessions describing in detail what the implications will be for developing a number of sectors to support this mega project.

Energy figured prominently in other sessions, including a Power Africa session with Namibia and Botswana to discuss a mega solar project. The Summit covered a broad range of other sectors, including Information Communications Technology.  At our ICT ministerial, we were delighted to have the acting head of the Trade and Development Agency announce a major new program, "Access Africa", to support more U.S. investment in this critical sector.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation also provided important details about its ongoing programs to support infrastructure projects, including ICT.  The ICT ministerial and a related panel session on digitalization were a great opportunity to convene a large number of the companies active in this space, and discuss key priorities on the road to realizing a common agenda for the continent to develop its digital future, as one participant put it.

Lively sessions on franchising, finance, agribusiness, infrastructure and fast moving consumer goods all generated active exchanges and helped participants make important business connections.  Sessions on the link between business and philanthropy showcased the amazing work of a number of CCA members, while other sessions highlighted successful techniques for African firms to connect with American partners.

The closing plenary provided some food for thought in terms of where the U.S. and Africa should look to deepen their trade and investment relationship.  Commerce Undersecretary Kaplan highlighted some of the steps his department will be taking to build linkages between companies, and there was general consensus that there is great opportunity for U.S.-Africa business partnerships especially in infrastructure, ICT and agribusiness.

During the Summit, we also held  a session featuring nine agreements that were signed between companies – and making clear that the Summit was more than a talkfest.  All told, it was an amazing event, with more than 1300 people attending over the three days from most of the countries on the continent.  We thank those that attended, and extend a special note of appreciation for our sponsors, who made the Summit possible.

Just before the Summit, CCA worked closely with the State Department and the Ethiopian Government to support the Ethiopian Partnership Forum in mid May.  This was a great opportunity to hear more detail from key advisers to the Prime Minister about how Ethiopia is moving forward in implementing plans for privatization, as well as attracting more foreign direct investment.

CCA hosted a follow-on session with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which announced its Ethiopia Threshold program, and provided more details about how it will work over the next two years.  Immediately afterwards, two senior advisers to Prime Minister Abiy gave a much more detailed summary of their plans to attract investment, and solicited company observations and concerns.  It was a great opportunity to hear directly from the officials directing these programs, and to offer suggestions on how best to address company concerns.

We're already preparing for a busy rest of the summer, including hosting the AGOA Private Sector Forum in Abidjan August 3.

Right after that, we'll return to New York for sessions on the margins of the UN General Assembly.  In summary, there's a lot going on in the U.S.-Africa trade and investment space.

Many African countries have made clear that they are very interested in welcoming more American companies, while African companies are also looking for opportunities to partner with their American counterparts.  There will be the inevitable challenges and setbacks in some places, but it's clearly a great time for companies to get more engaged in the search for business opportunities on the continent.

We look forward to updating you on these and other programs and to your collaboration with CCA in promoting a robust U.S.-Africa trade and investment relationship.

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