U.S. Commercial Diplomacy on the Ground - 2023 U.S.-Africa Business Summit
On Friday, July 14th, the Corporate Council on Africa organized a pivotal session titled "U.S. Commercial Diplomacy on the Ground," featuring esteemed panelists and moderated by Hon. Howard Van Vranken, the U.S. Ambassador to Botswana. The event commenced with Amb. Van Vranken reminding attendees of a quote from President Joe Biden, affirming the United States' belief in Africa's entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, acknowledging the continent's capabilities to overcome challenges.
The distinguished panelists included:
- Joy Basu, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, U.S. Department of State
- Cynthia Griffin, Minister Counselor for Commercial Affairs & Regional Senior Commercial Officer, based at the U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg, South Africa
- Joseph Rank, Chief Executive Officer & Vice President - Saudi Arabia & Africa, Lockheed Martin International
- Hon. Peter H. Vrooman, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Mozambique
- Darren Keep, Business Development Manager for Africa, Acrow Bridge
Ambassador Van Vranken shed light on the United States' strategy when engaging with African nations, emphasizing the significance of economic prosperity and growth driven by private sector-led trade and investment. He highlighted the State Department's efforts to bolster political relationships that reinforce economic partnerships between the United States and Africa, ultimately facilitating trade and creating conducive environments for companies to thrive.
Joy Basu, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, shared insights into the U.S. government's priorities concerning commercial diplomacy. She stressed the importance of economic partnerships and revealed the State Department's approach of working closely with companies to promote trade and investment between the U.S. and Africa.
Cynthia Griffin, Minister Counselor for Commercial Affairs, discussed the role of the U.S. Department of Commerce in facilitating two-way trade between Africa and the United States. The department assists African companies in finding U.S. partners through various services that foster strong business relationships. Darren Keep then recounted his company's experience with USG trade support, particularly in engaging in transformative infrastructure projects in Africa. He underscored the crucial role of government support in such initiatives. Ambassador Peter H. Vrooman shared a compelling anecdote from his visit to Goba, Mozambique, where severe floods damaged critical bridges. He highlighted the significance of the partnership between the USG and the private sector in addressing such challenges, referencing Acrow Bridge's successful efforts in repairing damaged infrastructure.
Joseph Rank emphasized the crucial role of embassies in supporting Lockheed Martin International’s work around the world. and promoting business globally. He stressed the importance of the partnership between the U.S. and Africa in facilitating the flow of companies and ideas between the two regions.
The panel session then opened up to questions from the audience. Topics ranged from security processes for vetting African companies on U.S. networks to the United States commitment to working with Africa's governments and private sector in the transition to a low-carbon green economy. Ambassadors also addressed the delicate balance between stability and progress in the American system.
The session provided valuable insights into the collaborative efforts between the U.S. government and private sector in strengthening the US-Africa relationship, fostering economic growth, and addressing shared challenges. The engagement demonstrated a genuine commitment to creating a prosperous future for both regions through diplomatic cooperation and mutual respect.
Click here to watch the recorded session.