President's New Year Message - January 2021

By Florizelle Liser

LiserHappy New Year! 

After a long and difficult 2020, I am hopeful that 2021 will be brighter and healthier.  With the advent of vaccines, we will learn to control the COVID-19 pandemic and gradually return to a more normal life.  2021 also marks the start of a new administration in the United States as well as in several African countries.  In addition, trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will begin. 

Despite the difficulties of the last year, I am incredibly proud of what the team at CCA has accomplished in 2020.   Although, unfortunately, we had to postpone the 13th U.S. – Africa Business Summit in Marrakesh, Morocco, I am happy to report that we organized a number of high-level virtual webinars, dialogues, and conferences.  We used new platforms and techniques to bring together experts from the U.S. and African government and private sectors on the most pressing issues we face in promoting U.S.-Africa trade, investment, and business both in response to COVID-19 and looking beyond to a period of economic recovery.   

We started in April with a webinar series on “U.S - Africa Business Engagement Navigating the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic” that provided a series of dialogues featuring senior U.S. and African government officials, business leaders and analysts, and heads of  multilateral institutions - all of whom kept us well-informed and connected while in the comfort and safety of our homes.  

Among the highlights of CCA’s 2020 events was our very successful June Leaders Forum webinar series “Resilient U.S. Africa Business Engagement to Drive Post-COVID-19 Recovery.”   During the four-day conference, we were honored to host four African Heads of State, the Deputy Administrator of USAID, the Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area, ministers, and many private sector executives.  We had a registered audience of over 2,500 people and over 100,000 live streaming. 

In July, we held our annual Africa Finance Forum which focused on the important topic of blended finance, as well as a dialogue on ICT and the critical role it is playing and will continue to play in the post-COVID-19 period. And in September CCA organized – as we always do – a number of events on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA).  We were pleased to hold country-focused dialogues on partnering for economic recovery in Morocco, Nigeria, and Senegal.  We followed this with a U.S.-Ethiopia Investment Dialogue in October and a South Africa Business and Investment Roundtable in November featuring H.E. President Cyril Ramaphosa. 

We wrapped up the year with the exciting launch in December of CCA’s new “U.S. – Africa Health Security and Resilience Initiative” and a high-level virtual event that brought together key U.S. and African leaders in Africa’s health sector, including Ministers of Health, the heads of the Africa CDC and GAVI (the international vaccine coalition), and senior executives from U.S. and African health companies.  This was the start of a two year initiative to explore the policy lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and inform a path forward for U.S – Africa private and public sector collaboration on health security and resilience on the continent.

 2021 promises to be an exciting and productive one for CCA.  We are already planning a number of initiatives and events to support our members and stakeholders in what we see as a year of recovery, relaunch and re-engagement for U.S.-Africa relations, investment, and business.  Although initially we will continue to host virtual events, we are optimistic that, as the COVID-19 vaccines take effect and the pandemic subsides, we will be able to start organizing in-person and hybrid events as well.  Our hope is that we can hold CCA’s signature event – the U.S.-Africa Business Summit – in Marrakesh in late 2021.   

With the swearing in later this month of the new U.S. Administration, CCA looks forward to working with members of the Biden-Harris Administration to continue promoting and improving the U.S – Africa trade, investment, and commercial relationship.  With the direct participation and assistance of our Board of Directors and all of our members, we have started drafting a paper with policy recommendations for the Biden Administration.  We welcome the active participation and input of all CCA member companies in the drafting of the document.  If you would like to participate, please contact Ellen Thorburn (ethorburn@corporatecouncilonafrica.com).   

Getting the policy right is always important, and this year it is truly critical if we are to set a promising path forward for global economic recovery – especially in Africa where they escaped the worst of the health impact of the pandemic but experienced a devastating economic impact.   

Now more than ever and in the wake of COVID-19, we recognize the importance of collaboration amongst Africans and of Africa with its global partners including the United States.  Multilateral institutions must provide critical financial and technical support for economic recovery in Africa.  Bilateral partners, including the United States under new leadership, must adopt and effectively implement innovative approaches, platforms, and tools to partner with Africa.   U.S. companies – supported by initiatives such as Prosper Africa and agencies such as DFC, MCC, Eximbank, TDA and others – must assertively seek and close deals promoting U.S.-Africa trade, investment, and business. Following a year in which we’ve seen a significant decline in U.S.-Africa trade, we must support all efforts to build on and go beyond AGOA – including negotiating free trade partnerships such as the U.S.-Kenya FTA as a platform and model for increased U.S.-Africa continent-wide trade.  

On the African side, all countries should take steps to fully implement the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) – a gamechanger for Africa’s own economic integration and regional trade as well as pulling African products and services into global value chains and boosting trade-related investment.   It will also require that African governments improve their business climates, promote good governance, support private-sector-led growth that creates jobs, and invest in their businesses – especially SME, youth, and women-owned enterprises.  It will be imperative for African governments to work more closely together.  The good news is that is already happening as evidenced by the AfCFTA – the success of which is now more important than ever.

And all this will provide the foundation for a more robust U.S – Africa trade and commercial relationship.    

CCA stands ready in 2021 – a year of recovery and relaunch -- to work with our African and U.S. partners – both in the public and private sectors – on the promise and future of the U.S.-Africa economic partnership.

Let me close by once again expressing my heartfelt thanks and best wishes to CCA member companies, to my outstanding team at CCA who continue to work tirelessly from their homes, to the Board Members who provide their guidance and support, and to all of our stakeholders both in the U.S. and across Africa with whom we look forward to continued collaboration.    

Best wishes to all of you for a very healthy and prosperous 2021!