President's Message - September/October 2020 ejournal
By Florizelle Liser
These are historic and momentous times for the United States, our African partners, and the world on several fronts - but most particularly on leadership. Globally, we continue to grapple with the COVID -19 pandemic as numbers in many parts of the world are on the rise again. Europe and the United States are experiencing a second wave of infections that many predict will be worse than the first and countries are re-imposing restrictions. France and Spain have recently declared a State of Emergency.
Africa, however, has been spared from the worst of a first wave and may also avoid a strong second wave. According to a BBC report, COVID-19 has been less deadly on the African continent than elsewhere. As of early October, Africa has recorded about 37,000 deaths, as compared to over half a million in the Americas, and over 200,000 in Europe and Asia. Even now, with the surges of cases in the United States and Europe, there has only been a 6% increase in new cases in Africa according to the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the experts, the reasons for this were that the African countries took stricter measures more quickly -- with some governments imposing restrictions even before a single case was reported. So we must give credit where it’s due to leadership – by the AU on behalf of the continent and by many African Heads of States.
Still, COVID-19 is with us to stay for a while and we need to continue to adapt our way of living and working. For the first time in the history of the United Nations, the 75th United Nations General Assembly did not take place in New York, but was organized virtually. On the margins of the virtual 2020 UNGA, CCA was pleased to host its series of events entitled “Partnering for Economic Recovery in Africa” which brought together key representatives of the U.S. and African governments as well as the private sector. This included country-focused sessions highlighting key economic recovery strategies and investment opportunities in Morocco, Nigeria, and Senegal.
The issue of leadership is now imminent as the United States holds its momentous Presidential (and other subnational) elections today. It would have been a difficult election under any circumstance, but the COVID-19 pandemic has added a level of complication as the states look for ways to allow people to vote safely and securely. The results of the election will determine the course of the country for the next four years – deciding among many things how the United States effectively fights the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the policies and initiatives adopted to engage with our allies and partners around the world (Africa being of most concern for CCA). CCA and our members believe it is critical that there be a clear, unequivocal message recognizing the importance for the USG and our private sector of a robust, forward leaning economic, trade and business relationship with the African public and private sectors.
Fortunately, we expect that U.S. government support and focus on improving and increasing trade with and investment in Africa will remain strong. Over the years, through initiatives like, AGOA, Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compacts, Power Africa, and more recently Prosper Africa, the United States has actively worked with African public and private sectors. CCA expects and will strongly advocate for a “new” U.S. Administration to continue these and other U.S. initiatives that invest in African countries and people. As we have throughout our 27 year history as the only U.S. association solely focused on doing business in Africa, CCA will continue to push for an enabling African environment that can grow African regional and global trade as well as attract the investment the continent needs for post-COVID economic recovery and growth.
This is why CCA and those with a stake in Africa’s political and economic future are closely watching recent and upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections and other extra- judicial developments across the continent, including in countries such as Guinea, Tanzania, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Liberia, Niger, and Ethiopia, not to mention events in Nigeria that have led to significant civil protests. Just as with the U.S. presidential elections, what happens to chart the future of these nations, the ways in which they respond to civil unrest or manage the COVID-19 pandemic will depend on leadership.
Recently, recognizing Ethiopia’s significant political and economic reforms, CCA hosted a “U.S. Ethiopia Investment Dialogue” with H.E. Dr. Eyob Tekalign, State Minister of Finance, which provided both practical details on how the reforms will affect business and investment, as well as insight and perspective on the political forces behind the reforms. The dialogue highlighted the ways in which the economic reforms transpiring focus on enhancing the role of the private sector in the economy and attracting more foreign direct investment. We welcomed the announcement yesterday by Ethiopia’s Election Board that elections there will be held by the second week of June 2021.
CCA also welcomed the recent very good news in relationship to Sudan when President Trump signed the order to remove Sudan from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list. If all goes well, they should be officially off the list by mid-December. With a transitional government that is working on important economic reforms and preparing the country for democratic elections in 2022, Sudan offers tremendous potential for investment and the Sudanese welcome working with American companies. Please stay tuned for an event that CCA will host in partnership with the U.S – Sudan Business Council in the coming months.
In the coming days of November as we await the outcome of U.S. elections and as we head into the holiday season and the January inaugural ceremonies, it is obvious that COVID-19 will make the way we celebrate different. Nonetheless, we still have much for which to be grateful. Once again, on behalf of the CCA Board and my outstanding CCA team, I extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to our members, partners and stakeholders for your tireless support to the Corporate Council on Africa. Your shared commitment to the vital importance of improving the U.S.-Africa trade and investment relationship sustains us through these turbulent times. I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. Stay well and stay safe.