Africa: Changing Perceptions on Display at U.S.-Africa Business Summit in DC

Washington, DC- “We must change the lenses with which we look at Africa from the traditional development mindset to an investment mindset,” Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), told last week’s U.S.-Africa Business Summit.

“American companies come to Africa bringing their notebooks, while the Chinese companies come to the continent with their checkbooks,” Adesina said in his keynote address in which he urged a reversal in the sharp drop in Africa’s exports to the United States since 2014 and encouraged American firms “to take a closer look at the opportunities Africa has to offer.”

Some 800 private-sector and government participants from Africa and the United States took part in the three-day gathering, a biennial event that CCA has hosted in various locations in the United States and Africa since 1997.

“The Summit provided one of the first opportunities for African leaders, U.S. and African CEOs and other stakeholders to engage with the Trump Administration on the important issues impacting the U.S.-Africa economic relationship” said Florie Liser, CCA’s President and CEO.

“Africa is moving steadily on a trajectory of economic growth and increasing self-reliance – a vision this Administration supports,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said his opening address – the first Africa policy speech by a senior Trump team member. “Africa is a place of opportunity,” he said, quoting President Trump when he met African leaders at last month’s G7 summit in Italy.

Ross called trade relationships “vital to the security and stability of both the United States and Africa” and expressed continued support for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which has been a centerpiece of U.S.-Africa policy since 2000. But he added a warning, saying that countries benefiting from Agoa trade preferences must “continue complying with the eligibility requirements established in U.S. law,” he said.

“Bilateral trade agreements, rather than large, multilateral ones, can be very effective tools in meeting the long–term interests of the partners involved,” the Commerce Secretary added, in a signal that Agoa is likely to be deemphasized in favor of trade pacts with large countries such as South Africa.

“Secretary Ross reinforced that the administration will be looking for ways to continue to expand trade with Africa,” which many participants found “reassuring”, Dr. Jeffrey Sturchio, the CCA Board chair, told AllAfrica.

Interest in Africa by U.S. firms has been on the rise in recent years. A major reason, as noted by speakers throughout the conference, are positive metrics reported by � among others – the IMF, World Bank and McKinsey&Company (in a study titled Lions on the Move):

6 African nations are among the top 10 fastest growing countries in the world

19 African countries have average growth rates of 5 percent or more

90 million African households will enter the consumer class over the next decade, contributing to a total household purchasing power of US$2.1 trillion

Africa is the world’s second-fastest growing economy, well above the global average

In attendance to pitch American firms were high-level representatives from a number of African governments. President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique , in his keynote, cited regulatory changes that make his country “a safe and strategic” investment destination. He urged American firms “to take advantage of the enabling business environment and investment opportunities and potential that exist in Mozambique.”

Source: Angola Press News Agency