July/August 2021 President's Message

President’s Message - July/August eJournal

FlorieAs August comes to a close, there is a lot to pause and reflect on. On July 27-29, CCA was delighted to welcome more than 1,200 participants to the 13th U.S.-Africa Business Summit. We were pleased to host the Presidents of Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mozambique and Rwanda, as well as the Prime Minister of Mauritius and a host of Ministers and senior officials from the Continent. On the U.S. side, we welcomed Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, USTR Ambassador Katherine Tai, Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, NSC Senior Director for Africa Dana Banks, a large number of senior officials from across the U.S. Government, and hosted Members of Congress in our invitation-only sessions. While the Summit is always wide-ranging, this year’s sessions provided critical insights on the Biden-Harris Administration’s policies on U.S.-Africa trade and investment, the direction of Africa’s economic recovery and the role for the private sector, and extensive coverage of health issues, including a powerful session on access to vaccines that featured the Director General of the WTO and the head of the African CDC along with senior officials from Pfizer, Abbott and Aspen.

Throughout the 3-day Summit, the overarching theme that came through is that now is the time for American companies to take a new look at the rapidly evolving conditions on the Continent. While there are still significant challenges, there are positive and fast-moving trends as well as opportunities that few other continents offer. The COVID pandemic naturally remains top of mind. Worldwide, countries just passed 5 billion COVID vaccinations, which is an astounding number for a vaccine that did not exist 18 months ago. African countries are making amazing progress in distributing and delivering vaccines, although they still remain far behind the rest of the world in terms of vaccine access. Health authorities have administered 125 million doses of the 1.5 billion the African CDC estimates will be needed to provide a minimal level of protection for populations. Important investments, such as Johnson & Johnson’s partnership with Aspen to produce 400 million doses, and Pfizer’s investment in Biovac to produce 100 million doses, are early but important steps toward addressing Africa’s goal of manufacturing 60% of the vaccines it consumes by 2040.

The progress in vaccinations has been tempered by the swift spread of the Delta variant, which is now dominant in most countries and provides a stark reminder of just how interconnected our health and security are. The spread of Delta has already induced several African countries to reimpose lockdowns and health restrictions, endangering a nascent economic rebound that had started May through July, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. Sobering figures on unemployment show that the three countries with the highest unemployment rates are in Africa (South Africa, Namibia and Nigeria), highlighting the impact COVID will continue to have on African economies. This, in turn, underscores the importance of the IMF moving quickly this fall to enact important reforms to allow greater access to Special Drawing Rights and implement a longer-term solution to extend the debt suspension initiative while countries put in place measures to support longer-term economic restructuring and recovery. It also highlights the importance of African governments’ calls for more private sector investment, particularly in growth-inducing sectors like infrastructure and ICT.

The past two months were a great preview of what will be a very intense fall during which Africa will feature prominently on the international agenda. The United Nations will hold its General Assembly and related meetings September 14-30, with Heads of State appearing for the General Debate starting on the 21st. The theme of this year’s UNGA will be “building resilience through hope – to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people and revitalize the United Nations.” For the first time since 1981, the UNGA will convene a High-Level Dialogue on Energy. These discussions will be continued in October when the IMF and World Bank hold their fall meetings, during which they are likely to announce important decisions on expanding Special Drawing Rights and allowing them to be transferred to support restructuring African debt.The U.S. will also have a busy policy agenda regarding Africa this fall, beginning with decisions on AGOA eligibility in September and October and a meeting of African Trade Ministers with USTR Ambassador Tai. Over the course of the fall, we expect that next steps will become clear regarding the U.S.-Kenya FTA. USAID also plans to announce, likely in October, its new continental trade hubs as part of the Prosper Africa Build Together campaign. In November, the U.S. and the African Union will hold their High-Level Dialogue, which will review cooperation on a broad range of issues, including the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. The White House plans to convene a Summit of Democracies in December, which will include a number of African countries, and conclude a very busy fall.

CCA will be actively involved in all of these discussions, hosting country-focused events on the sidelines of UNGA, sessions on African economic recovery during the World Bank/IMF fall meetings, helping organize an AGOA private sector dialogue, and facilitating high level discussions on energy and climate as well as U.S.-Africa trade policy and the Prosper Africa Build Together campaign. All of these will be opportunities to highlight the potential for collaboration with the private sector to advance the U.S.-Africa economic agenda, while also helping companies understand and take advantage of rapidly evolving opportunities in Africa. We look forward to you joining us over the next few months as CCA continues to provide a platform and advocate for a stronger and better U.S.-Africa trade, investment, and business relationship.