President's Message - July/August 2018 Africa eJournal

By Florizelle Liser

 

The successful visit of Uhuru Kenyatta on August 27 to meet President Trump in Washington captures in a snapshot the growing momentum in US-African trade and investment relations.  The two presidents announced that the U.S. and Kenya have formed a Trade and Investment Working Group to begin sketching out what a reciprocal bilateral trade and commercial relationship will look like as both countries work to elevate their partnership to a strategic level.  The visit also saw two agreements signed with OPIC, including a two hundred and thirty two million dollar wind energy plant and a five million dollar food distribution plant, as well as bilateral agreements to expand cooperation in security and defense. The U.S. and Kenya are working on another set of deals worth two hundred and fifty million dollars in the coming months, likely including a major road project with Bechtel.

 

President Kenyatta’s visit came a short six weeks after the U.S. hosted the 17th AGOA Forum July 11-12 in Washington, where U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer invited African countries to work with the United States to come up with a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that can serve as a model for the rest of the continent in charting the scope of what a post-AGOA trade and investment relationship with the U.S. will look like.

 

At the AGOA Forum, African countries provided an update on the status of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which 44 countries have already signed, and 6 of the 22 needed to bring it into force have already ratified. There is indeed a sense that events in several countries in Africa are moving both more quickly than in the past, and in the right direction.  Several countries, notably including Ethiopia, have gone through important domestic political transitions recently, which have resulted in welcome reforms that are improving transparency and governance.  There are two common themes in these efforts.  The first, as President Kenyatta emphatically put it in meeting both President Trump and UK Prime Minister May, is that African countries are looking for a new kind of relationship of co-equal partners, rather than traditional donor-recipient relations.  The second is that many African countries are clearly looking for more interaction with the U.S., particularly from U.S. companies.  The other big event of the summer, the four-country visit of the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa, showed a keen interest in host governments and local businesses to meet their American counterparts.  There was also a real sense that it’s time to get down to business, with more than one billion dollars in deals announced during the trip.

 

September and October already have a number of events that will continue this momentum, including a record number of African heads of state that are planning on meeting U.S. companies while in New York during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).  The time is clearly now for U.S. companies to sharpen their analysis of what opportunities African countries present today, as well as what opportunities could be developed in the future.  And Corporate Council on Africa is hosting a number of events on the sidelines of UNGA that will highlight the many opportunities present on the continent to grow U.S.-Africa commercial partnerships and to enhance the U.S.-Africa trade and investment relationship.   In its 25th year, CCA remains committed to being the premier business organization solely focused on U.S.-Africa business, and to providing the access, connections and insights that are critical in growing that business.