July 27, 2021

Highlights from Day 1 | U.S.-Africa Business Summit

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Opening Plenary: New Pathways to a Stronger U.S.-Africa Economic PartnershipThe Summit’s opening plenary featured H.E. President Felipe Nyusi of Mozambique, Hon. Pravind Jugnauth, Prime Minister of Mauritius, Hon. Gina Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and Chairman and CEO of Visa Al Kelly, Jr.. in a dynamic discussion. The high level dialogue set the scene for the Summit’s three-day agenda and focused on the opportunities for U.S. and African public and private sector leaders to strengthen the economic partnership between the United States and Africa. Prosper Africa, investments in key sectors such as gas, exploration of possible new bilateral trade agreements, extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), and growth of the digital economy supported by companies like Visa were all highlighted during the opening plenary which was moderated by CNN Anchor and Correspondent Eleni Giokos.Plenary: The Role of Women's Leadership in Driving an Inclusive RecoveryThe Fireside Chat with Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations revolved around how the United States can help drive a pandemic recovery that puts women at the forefront. When asked what the U.S. was willing to do to ensure Africa is not left behind, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield noted that GAVI had recently announced the United States contribution of 25 million vaccines for the nations of Africa. She stated that “we are not just fighting the disease but fighting to secure decades of economic progress that the pandemic could unwind.” She added that we have to make sure as countries are building back better, that they incorporate women’s perspective in their efforts. “When women are empowered, they empower their families, they empower their communities, and they empower their countries.”Thokozile Ruzvidzo Director of the Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) said that there are 6 critical things that must be done for women to benefit from the AFCFTA. Some of these include: closing the gender gap as it relates to access to finance, empowering women in the export sector, regional value chains and procurement and ensuring that we include the voice of women in the AFCFTA implementation efforts.The moderator Hayde Adams noted that Togo was listed as one of the most improved countries for narrowing the gender gap. H.E Rose Mivedor, Minister of Investment Promotion, Republic of Togo reported that women represent approximately 53.7% of the entire population and that in order to close the gender gap in Togo, the government had established a clear strategy to promote gender equality and reinforce female leadership. “We have a government roadmap for 2021-2025 with a focus on female inclusion. Altogether, I would say that it has implemented sustainable development goals geared towards gender equality”.Patricia Obozuwa VP, Govt Affairs, Communication and Sustainability Africa, Coca Colaspoke on the unique challenges faced by African women, noting that Africa has more female entrepreneurs than any other continent, but 92% are in the informal sector, which was the most negatively impacted by COVID-19. Another challenge is women’s interaction with technology. In a post-covid world where technology plays a big role in economic inclusion, women are at a disadvantage. “The more technologically savvy women are, the more we will be able to participate in the economy.” She emphasized that “for us to move forward as a continent, women have to be at the center of policies that stimulate the economy. We can’t leave half of the population behind, especially a critical population that would be essential to building resilience in African economies.”Julie Monaco Global Head, Public Sector Coverage, Citigroup stated that it’s important for governments to understand how vulnerable women have been during this pandemic. She noted that an estimated 47 million more women and girls are living in poverty now than they were before this pandemic. “If countries truly want to achieve an inclusive and successful recovery from the crisis, it’s crucial women are at the table shaping policy decisions and execution.” Governments have to treat empowered women as an essential component of the recovery, especially when they are considering ESG targets and financing.”New Pathways to a Stronger U.S.-Africa Trade RelationshipToday’s session on “New Pathways to a Strong U.S.-Africa Trade Relationship” focused on a range of issues, from implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA), boosting Africa’s trade with the U.S. including through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), pursuing agreements that go beyond AGOA such as the U.S.-Kenya FTA, and pursuing public private partnerships that support U.S. and African businesses, including women owned and led SMEs.U.S. Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, noted as top priorities for the Biden-Harris Administration the defeat of COVID and helping facilitate a robust global economic recovery. She highlighted that trade is a key part of that effort and said she “we are determined to implement policies that benefit not only those at the top but foster inclusive and sustainable development, support regional integration, and ensure that all of our respective citizens benefit from the global economy especially as we rebuild.”H.E. Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, highlighted the significant progress that has been made in advancing the AfCFTA -- with 40 countries that have now ratified the agreement, Phase 1 covering trade in goods and services concluded, and 86% of the rules of origin completed. He also noted that “ AfCFTA has unlocked value chains for investors – especially U.S. investors – in key sectors such as pharmaceuticals, autos, agroprocessing, and fintech.”H.E. Moulay Hafid Elalamy, Minister of Industry, Trade and Green and Digital Economy of Morocco noted the sectors such as vehicle and aviation parts manufacturing that Morocco has grown as a result of its FTA with the U.S., highlighted its significant FDI in sub-Saharan African countries, and urged that we explore the triangular relationship and opportunities between Morocco, other African nations, and the U.S.Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam noted that as the largest air cargo carrier in Africa with hubs in countries across the continent, the airline is successfully connecting Africa with the rest of the world – both for cargo and for passengers and tourism. He urged, though, that more be done to facilitate increased investment, trade and tourism in Africa and to support the AfCFTA vison and goals.Building on P&G’s more than 50 years operating in Africa, Vilo Trska, Senior VP for Sub-Saharan Africa noted the opportunities for companies like P&G that will result from African regional integration and the AfCFTA. He shared that P&G will be expanding its production capacity across Africa and that the company is championing women’s equality and providing hygiene products for school girls.Laura Lane, Chief Corporate Affairs and Communication Officer at UPS also highlighted the critical role that women play in unlocking the potential of trade in Africa, and urged that trade be kept simple (i.e., free of barriers) and be made real – that is impacting the lives of everyday people, especially women and SMEs.The importance of a U.S. trade policy that builds on and goes beyond the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was at the core of remarks by Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Constance Hamilton. She noted that under the Biden-Harris Administration, they will be ramping up engagement with the AfCFTA Secretariat to support African regional integration, while looking to build stronger relationships with willing African nations through bilateral engagement. She noted the plans to hold a Trade Ministerial in 2021, and to engage with a range of stakeholders to explore ways to enhance the U.S.-Africa trade relationship.Infrastructure Development: Catalyst for Economic RebootThe Infrastructure session highlighted the growing financing gap in Africa and the importance of renewed public-private partnerships in the development of infrastructure projects.Minister de Lille of South Africa stated that “the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the flaws in our economies, and it is critical to tackle these deficiencies.” Panelists agree with Ambassador Siberell of Bechtel who suggested that a way to address those flaws is to “implement rigorous master planning that will first help identify bankable projects and then prepare them efficiently while raising local capacity.”Serge Ekue of the West African Development Bank stressed that the pandemic should not stop investment in the infrastructure sector, especially in regions that were already underfunded, stating: “Development cannot wait.” African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, H.E. Patricia de Lille, reiterated this point saying: “Infrastructure is not just about the value of the money. It is about the value of the social impact on our communities.”Alexia Latortue of MCC, indicated that as countries pursue ways to bridge that financing “taking shortcuts today means paying the price tomorrow.” Paul Sullivan of Acrow emphasized the need to adopt a partnership mindset by “traveling to the countries and working directly with them to arrange the financing.” Carmen Kamgaing of Caterpillar shared their plans to “enhance projects post-pandemic by supporting all clients through local independent dealers.”Beyond Covid-19: Pathways to Resilient Health Systems in AfricaBuilding blocks for pathways to resilient health systems in Africa include:Lessons from preparation and addressing the pandemic including a one-health multi-sectoral approach in addressing current and future pandemics. WHO and other partners have continued to play a critical role in building the capacity of African countries to cope with an overstretched health system during the pandemic.Having resilient and networked systems involve building collaborations with both public, private, and NGOs in ensuring that all gaps in the health system are addressed. Various panel presenters provided examples of ensuring continued success in other disease management (access accelerated in getting meds for NCDs – hypertension and diabetes, etc.) while addressing the pandemic. Partnerships are essential in the ramping of testing capacities, as well as registration of drugs including vaccinesIn building resilience, it is important to invest in sustainable approaches that bring services close to the patients. These include strong primary healthcare (PHC) as the foundation for strengthening health systems, including the integration of services with a multi-disciplinary team.Innovation around financing exists through partnerships between the U.S. and Africa that are advancing resilient health systems and specifically supply chains beyond the current COVID-19 pandemic. The US DFC continues to offer various tools including loan guarantee programs, debt financing, and political risk insurance in advancing various health initiatives including most recently with Aspen South Africa for the local manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines. Looking forward, there are opportunities for impact investing in health in Africa by deploying financial resources that can have financial returns/commercial opportunities while improving health outcomes.Prosper Africa 2021: Building Back Better TogetherThe Prosper Africa session provided specific details on the Administration’s commitment to ‘double down’ on making Prosper Africa successful in expanding trade and investment between the U.S. and Africa. Agencies provided updates on progress since Prosper Africa’s launch at the CCA Summit in Maputo in 2019; to cite two examples, the Department of State has launched Deal Teams in every Embassy in Africa, and the Department of Commerce has supported more than $13 billion in U.S. exports since that time. Prosper Africa in total has supported $50 billion in deals.Agencies described exciting new programs, including supporting the digital economy, health and climate programs, as well as programs to be more inclusive and support programs involving women, SMEs and minority businesses, all of which are part of the Administration’s efforts to Build Back Better.