Prosper Africa's View from the Ground

On March 10, 2022, the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) in partnership with Prosper Africa held a webinar entitled “Prosper Africa’s View from the Ground”. The event featured Akunna Cook, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of African Affairs at Department of State and Leslie Marbury, Chief Operating Officer at Prosper Africa.

The webinar served as an opportunity for DAS Cook and Ms. Marbury to highlight their recent trip to Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, and Namibia as part of the first in a series of Prosper Africa Economic Diplomacy tours led by the U.S. Department of State. The U.S. Government officials briefed the audience on their trip and highlighted key findings and opportunities to deepen U.S. and Africa economic ties.

Florie Liser, President and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) delivered the opening remarks and moderated the webinar. She introduced DAS Cook and Ms. Marbury, inviting them to speak on key findings and opportunities to deepen U.S. - Africa ties in sectors such as ICT, creative industries, digital technologies, infrastructure, and technology.

The delegation led by DAS Cook and Ms. Marbury engaged with entrepreneurs, business leaders, and government officials to remove barriers to US trade and investment, to drive transactions forward, and to promote market opportunities.

DAS Cook emphasized that there is a “lot of hunger and yearning for private sector investment on the continent.” She spoke of the need to modernize the tools the U.S. Government has for deploying economic diplomacy and the need for it to be a priority across the different agencies, not just Prosper Africa. Prosper Africa is composed of seventeen different agencies with seventy different tools including financing, matchmaking, and development. DAS Cook spoke of the need to make it easier for the private sector to navigate the available resources.

Another opportunity for the private sector exists in terms of engagement when working with African governments. Businesses could do more to highlight the value they add to the local economy in terms of economic return, job creation, technical transfer, and skills and capacity building. With the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), DAS Cook expects the enabling environment for the private sector to improve over time, assisting the private sector.

COO of Prosper Africa, Leslie Marbury, echoed DAS Cook’s excitement about the AfCFTA, explaining that Prosper Africa serves as a one stop shop that is ready to engage with investors and offer spoke services to the continental market the AfCFTA provides. Ms. Marbury placed a heavy emphasis on Prosper Africa’s development of strategic partnerships to assist engagement on the continent. She also shared the importance of cost-effective financing and Prosper Africa’s flexibility to work at a continent level with foreign assistance funding in a variety of sectors such as digital health care, climate, and value-added manufacturing. Prosper Africa is also working to scale up capital available to SME’s which present huge investment opportunities.

One method in which capital is being deployed is through the recent joint launch by the U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and United States African Development Foundation (USADF) of the African Small Business Catalyst. Jacob Flewelling of DFC spoke of the DFC –

USADF partnership which is currently calling for applications that will provide partners with grants, mentoring, and training for their business in Africa.

Closing remarks were provided by Florie Liser who expressed CCA’s continued mandate to support the economic development of African nations by continuing to provide a platform for discussions on U.S.- Africa collaboration for economic growth.