Highlights from Day 3 | U.S.-Africa Business Summit
Digital Transformation – Pathway for Enabling African Business Environment
- Digital Transformation – Pathway for Enabling African Business Environment plenary highlighted the role of the private sector and government to drive all-inclusive African digital transformation.
- In his remarks, South African Minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition, Ebrahim Patel highlighted that digital technology is a critical tool and a critical enabler to build economic growth and economic opportunities.
- Digital technologies will help create new products and new markets for millions of Africans. Policymakers, corporations, and entrepreneurs have a unique partnership opportunity to develop digital infrastructure, skills, and ecosystems. Minister Patel invited the private sector to share ideas and suggestions to make the AfCFTA e-commerce protocol fit for purpose.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the digitalization of life and work. As a result, technology companies are developing lifesaving products and services. For example, Google and Apple developed exposure notification technology, which helps slow the spread of COVID-19. Google also developed a range of products for remote education.
- As African businesses and consumers have shifted towards e-commerce and digital payments, companies like Visa have accelerated the rollout of payment infrastructure.
- For digital trade and digital economy to work effectively, panelists recommended that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) be fully and quickly implemented to establish a continent-wide harmonization of business-friendly rules and regulations.
Doing Business in Angola
- The Doing Business in Angola was chaired by H.E. Dr. Manuel Nunes Junior, Minister of State for Economic Coordination and featured Ministers from key economic sectors and H.E. Nina Fite, U.S. Ambassador to Angola. Thomas Strauss, Senior Commercial Officer at the U.S. Embassy moderated the session.
- In his opening remarks, Minister of State Nunes Junior shared the government’s commitment to make Angola more business-friendly and attractive to investors. He also addressed the privatization agenda started in 2019 with a focus on the Telecoms, Tourism, Industry, and Financial services sectors.
- In his remarks, Antonio Henriques da Silva, Chairman, Agency for Private Investment and Promotion of Exports (AIPEX), highlighted some of the incentives the government offers to investors, especially in the country’s rural regions. He also invited investors to consider investing in priority sectors for the government such as physical infrastructure, energy production, health, education, agriculture, textiles, and forestry.
- Dr. Mima Nedelcovych, Chairman, AfricaGlobal Schaffer shared his company’s long history in Angola and optimism about their current investments in energy and agrobusiness. He encouraged the government to continue working closely with the private sector to turn Angola’s economic potential into a reality.
- Ambassador Fite concluded the session by inviting more American investment into Angola and shared that the U.S. Embassy and its commercial service are ready to support and facilitate their ventures.
Pandemic-Inspired Digital Solutions and Innovative Pathways in the Health Sector
- Public and Private sector collaborations enable global digital transformation, and the COVID-19 pandemic is driving innovative digital solutions in the health sector. The leadership of governments is vital in creating an enabling environment for these crucial collaborations, especially in ensuring a reliable digital health enterprise architecture is in place.
- In Africa, there is a need for agility from the public sector to adopt innovation, including opportunities for data integration. However, it is critical to contextualize the digital solutions and technologies deployed within each country's unique circumstances, ensuring integration to existing systems, interoperability, DHIS2 compatibility, and other factors that provide both utilization of the rich data and sustainability of solutions deployed.
- In designing digital health solutions, it is essential to understand that innovation goes beyond technology. Using a human-centered approach and understanding the African continent and its unique heavy public sector role will enable relevant solutions. The simplicity of the technology/ solution is the incentive that drives utilization by users and primarily the public sector in the continent.
- Digital health presents opportunities to leapfrog Africa to match developed countries' health delivery by leveraging technology to optimize limited resources. These opportunities include leveraging the value of data integration and information sharing in the continent. With a focus on COVID-19, It is important to integrate health services and utilize all existing data and resources to springboard achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) goals.
- Getting digital transformation and access is an existential matter for Africa. A great opportunity exists for Africa to benefit from the current digital revolution / industrial wave. COVID-19 has trajected the continent to the needed right steps for digital transformation. According to the World Bank, governments should match successful collaborations with policies that accompany investments in digital infrastructures such as regulatory framework that fosters competition and innovation in telecommunications, provisions of reliable and affordable electricity, investments in education, and upgrading skills.
Financing New Pathways to A Stronger U.S.-Africa Economic Partnership
- The U.S. is interested in transforming its relationship with Africa into one of two-way trade as seen through the Build Back Better and Prosper Africa initiatives, and the recent creation and funding of the DFC. USAID plans to help build up private sector connections between the U.S. and Africa with a focus on SMEs, minority-owned businesses, and diaspora. Prosper Africa will prioritize investment in Climate change, Global health, Communication technology, and Gender equality. DFC has already invested $8 billion across Africa to improve women’s empowerment, health care resiliency and power generation.
- New financing strategies are key to encouraging private sector investment and success. Decreasing risk, or the perception of risk, is important to attract new investors. This is done through sharing a more positive perspective of Africa with Americans than what they receive in the news, implementing risk-sharing strategies among investors, and getting support from development finance institutions who prioritize Africa and can provide useful information to investors and facilitate connections in new markets.
- Banking institutions want to see fewer international regulations that result in decreased compliance costs which have been driving away banks from Africa. African governments can help attract investors and dispel risk by implementing more institutional protections for investors. Making these changes may encourage pension funds and more risk-averse funding to become accessible to the continent.
- Investment in digital infrastructure, digital skills, physical infrastructure, energy/power generation, and health services will be crucial for Africa’s development. All these areas are one’s where investors will see growth going forward.
Congressional Dialogue on U.S.-Africa Economic Partnership
- The Congressional session hosted Rep. Karen Bass and Rep Chris Smith - the Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Global Human Rights. They were joined by African officials including African Union Commissioner forEconomic Development, Trade, Industry and Mining, Albert Muchanga, and Ambassdors Carlos dos Santos of Mozambique and Lazarus Amayo of Kenya, along with senior executives from CCA member companies and other stakeholders for a lively discussion on the most important aspects of the U.S.-Africa economic partnership.
- The Members emphasized the importance of deepening trade and investment ties between Africa and the United States, and shared that they are thinking about the next phase of AGOA and looking at ways to make it more effective, to perhaps adapting the existing AGOA model and eventually leading to bilateral, multilateral and continental wide agreements.
- African officials underscored that their leaders consider the United States a strategic economic partner, and urged the U.S. government and private sector to support implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), U.S. companies take advantage of the largest free trade area in the world covering 54 of Africa’s 55 countries, and use initiatives such as Prosper Africa to grow U.S. trade with and investment in Africa.
- Private sector executives from companies operating in Africa’s key growth sectors noted that they are now beginning to think of Africa as one market and see the AfCFTA as a gamechanger in terms of the opportunities for doing business on the continent. They urged Africans to move quickly to clarify AfCFTA rules of origin, harmonize regulations, and address systemic policy issues, particularly in a period when, as one Kenyan company executive said, manufacturing is relocating to Africa from China. They also urged the USG to support and catalyze U.S. private sector investment into African infrastructure – critical not only to facilitate greater intra-African trade, but to effectively draw Africa into global value chains and enhance the U.S.-Africa trade, investment, and commercial relationship.
The Future of Energy in Africa: Transition and Pathway to Cleaner Energy
- The session drew high-level participants from the U.S. Government, African countries, and the private sector to discuss the need for public-private sector collaboration on energy transition in Africa and innovative thinking on the critical need to address energy poverty and access to electricity in Africa while advancing the urgent fight against global warming. Joining U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, from the USG were senior U.S. government officials from the Departments of Energy and State, and the U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC). Also participating in the dialogue were Ministers of Energy and senior African officials from Angola, Egypt, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Senegal, as well as CEOs and other top executives from a range of U.S. and African oil, gas, and power companies and major investors in the sector.
- The Hon. John Kerry stated that tackling climate change is a top priority for the United States and reiterated the USG commitment to encouraging other countries to achieve their respective climate and clean energy goals. It was noted that more African countries need to sign on to the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change as it is important that all countries work together to address global climate change.
- Other USG officials acknowledged energy poverty in Africa and noted that improving energy access in Africa is paramount to the U.S. government as it continues to invest in electricity systems in Africa through initiatives like Power Africa. They also noted that even while the United States is pushing for a strong political commitment from African to prioritizing and meeting climate change goals, the USG will continue to support and finance energy projects (including some in gas) in Africa, particularly where renewable energy options may not be viable
- African Ministers and government officials shared the strategies they’ve adopted in their respective countries to both adopt clean energy technologies in oil and gas, while also investing in renewable energy options. In Senegal, Egypt and Angola, renewable energy is at the forefront of energy transition strategies and initiatives, and it was noted that collaborations with international partners is essential to achieving long term energy and climate change goals in Africa.
- CEOs and senior executives of companies with operations in Africa who participated in the session highlighted that they are actively working on energy access in Africa, see gas (particularly abated gas) as a medium term, low cost transition option to address climate change, while some are also investing in and financing renewable energy projects in Africa.
- There were calls for fair treatment of Africa in terms of climate change, as well as for the USG to prioritize development over climate change when it comes to Africa, and to continue financing gas projects in Africa for the next 5-7 years, which some thought could actually help meet climate goals faster as Africans (especially those in rural areas) shift from wood burning to use of gas to cook. Noting the complexity of these energy issues, many agreed that public-private partnerships are crucial to renewable energy transitions, and thought that further dialogues like this one leading up to the COP 26 talks scheduled to take place in Glascow in November 2021 would be crucial in the U.S. and Africans reaching a common understanding about the way forward on the future of energy and climate in Africa.