President’s Message - September/October 2019 eJournal

By Florizelle Liser

President and CEO

 

Florizelle Liser, President and CEO, CCA.

Happy Fall!  September kept us hopping as CCA organized three events in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).  We have continued to shine a light on U.S.-Africa trade opportunities and challenges, particularly through the African Continental Free Trade Arrangement (AfCFTA).  We’ve also continued to highlight and contribute to U.S. government engagement with business on the continent, while advocating for African countries to improve their business climates. 

Preparing for the AfCFTA

The African Union is moving ahead in planning for the African Continental Free Trade Arrangement (AfCFTA) which promises to be a game-changer for Africa. Implementation is scheduled to start as of July 1, 2020, with potentially critical implications for American companies engaged on the continent.  CCA organized three events to help the African Union (AU) and U.S. companies prepare. 

On September 11, we co-hosted with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Africa Business Center a workshop for a group of AU trade experts in the United States on an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). The workshop included presentations on U.S. views of “Phase two” issues for AfCFTA:  intellectual property rights, and competition and investment policy, as well as how this will be impacted by the digital economy. 

In a September 23 event on the margins of UNGA in New York, we co-hosted (with the U.S. Chamber) a panel on “The U.S.-Africa Leadership Forum:  Strengthening the Future of U.S.-Africa Trade and Investment.” This dialogue featured Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou, Cote d’Ivoire Vice President Daniel Duncan, and representatives from MTN, Abbott, and GE, speaking to an audience of over 200 people. 

On October 4, CCA co-hosted a roundtable with visiting African Union Trade and Industry Commissioner Albert Muchanga. Commissioner Muchanga painted an optimistic and ambitious vision of the AfCFTA and A/USTR Constance Hamilton provided insights into the U.S. government’s approach on U.S.-Africa trade.  The Commissioner saw good investment prospects for U.S. companies in Africa in   infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture, education, tourism, creative industries, and trade in services. 

USG Support for U.S.-Africa Business

The U.S. government continues to roll out new tools to strengthen U.S.-Africa private sector engagement, with CCA as a key partner.

EXIM: On September 18, CCA hosted a High-Level Dialogue with U.S. Export-Import Bank Chairman and President Kimberley Reed, as part of our annual members meeting. Chairman Reed, only four months into her job, highlighted EXIM’s activities in Africa and introduced her Africa team. 

DFC: The expected October 1 creation of the Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has been postponed. Once created, the DFC will combine the capabilities of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and USAID’s Development Credit Authority to provide foreign aid through the financing of development projects. CCA has been working with OPIC to support the DFC’s early engagement related to Africa. 

USTDA: CCA continues to collaborate with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) on “Access Africa”.  We plan to hold our inaugural ICT working group meeting with USTDA and others in mid-November. 

Prosper Africa: CCA continues to highlight the Prosper Africa initiative. I participated in the Department of Commerce’s “Discover Global Markets” conference in Houston, the Make Africa Trade Easy (MATE) fair, and the CEO Kikao Forum in Pretoria, highlighting in all of my remarks the opportunities in Prosper Africa.  I also had a good opportunity to discuss Prosper while participating in Advisory Council meetings for the MCC and EXIM Bank, and in meetings with senior officials in Washington. 

Improving Business Climates in Africa

CCA continued to advocate for improving business climates throughout Africa.  I underscored the opportunities but also the need to overcome challenges in the business climate in remarks about Africa’s textile sector during Africa Braintrust. I delivered a similar message in a meeting for CCA members with Guinean President Conde in Washington and during an event focused on Liberia during UNGA.  Three other events hit on this theme:

Great Lakes: On September 30, CCA co-hosted an event in Washington featuring Huang Xia, Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations for the Great Lakes Region. He encouraged U.S. companies to attend the second Great Lakes Investment and Trade Conference in March 2020 in Rwanda. Xia spoke about the great potential for investment in the Great Lakes region of Africa, while acknowledging that African governments need to promote friendly business environments and manage their resources sustainably. 

Nigeria: During UNGA, CCA hosted a roundtable on business opportunities and challenges with the Governors of Nigeria’s Edo and Lagos states. During a luncheon with Nigerian Trade and Investment Minister Richard Adebayo, he stressed that Nigeria wants to attract more foreign investment and is focused on improving its business climate.

Health:  During UNGA, CCA hosted a Business Luncheon and Roundtable on “Linking Health and Economic Growth in Africa.  The event featured nine African health ministers and the Deputy Administrator of USAID, who shared with more than 100 people the importance of health promotion to economic growth in Africa. They stressed the role of the private sector in tackling Africa’s health challenges.  We used the event to highlight CCA’s active health agenda and working group, aimed at improving the business climate for investment and trade in this critical sector. 

Central African Bank: CCA co-hosted an event for the visiting Governor of the Central African Bank (BEAC). The Governor had a frank exchange with U.S. companies about the implementation of proposed BEAC foreign exchange regulations that could negatively impact U.S. companies and the region’s business environment.   

Closing Reflections

I have been thinking and talking a lot about managing uncertainty. The U.S.-China trade war, Brexit, slower growth in China and India, the impact of social media and digital technologies – these are among the factors that are influencing business perceptions and decisions about managing risk globally. These are being felt in Africa as well, where the AfCFTA adds a new element of uncertainty as well as opportunity.   

Thriving in a period of greater uncertainty shines a light on the importance of good partnerships. It makes all the more important the kind of work CCA does so well – building networks, insights, and mutual understanding to advance business opportunities in the United States and Africa. 

We are excited about what lies ahead.  Just this week we announced that the U.S.-Africa Business Summit will be in Morocco in June. We are hosting a High-Level Dialogue with former South African Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas in November and I will travel to Johannesburg to attend the Africa Investment Forum. I hope to see you at – in Washington or South Africa – as we close out a very successful year.