Amid a gradual decline in U.S. trade with Africa since 2011, the Initiative for Global Development (IGD) kicked off its New York City roadshow stop on April 23, to bolster U.S.-Africa trade and investment ties and connect U.S. and African investors and private sector leaders for mutual economic prosperity.
The New York City roadshow stop, which was held on April 23 and 24, was the second stop of IGD’s four-city inaugural U.S. roadshow tour, “Africa Investment Rising: Building Momentum for Investing in Africa’s Economic Prosperity”. The U.S. roadshow, taking place from April 18-May 1, is aimed at re-shaping perceptions on doing business in Africa by bringing trade and investment opportunities to U.S. companies and forging stronger connections between U.S. and African business leaders in key growth sectors.
Launched on April 18 in Washington, D.C., the roadshow traveled from New York City to Des Moines, IA for agribusiness and agro-industry and then Houston, TX for power and energy.
Only about 1.5 percent of U.S. exports are flowing into sub-Saharan Africa. Under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the signature US-Africa trade law, exports increased from $7.6 billion to $24.8 billion from 2001 to 2013. However, exports plummeted by over 50 percent to $11.6 billion in 2014.
The two-day roadshow stop drew attention to tremendous opportunities and constraints to trade and investment in the African marketplace. The roadshow also provides an engaging platform for executive speed networking and forging business-to-business connections.
Changing the narrative on doing business in Africa was a key focus of U.S. roadshow tour. The New York City roadshow stop began with a visit to the Wall Street Journal, where high-level African executives and representatives from the USAID East and Southern Africa Trade Hub met with Dan Keeler, WSJ’s Frontier Markets editor, The delegation shared some of the dynamic investment opportunities in their sector and the evolving business environment to help shape news coverage of Africa as a business and investment destination.
Attendees were greeted to a jumbotron announcing the Africa Investment Rising Roadshow Tour at an evening reception at the Thomson Reuters Building in Times Square. The reception, sponsored by Thomson Reuters, officially kicked off the New York City roadshow stop.
Patsy Doerr, Global Head of Corporate Responsibility and Inclusion at Thomson Reuters, spoke about Thomson Reuters Africa’s efforts to change the narrative on doing business in Africa. “Through transparency and data, we change the perception of risk of doing business in Africa through our products and initiatives,” said Doerr.
A panel of U.S. and African private sector leaders and African Finance Ministers highlighted investment trends and industry sectors to spur growth in Africa and discussed pro-active approaches to encourage U.S. investment.
Moderated by Carol Pineau, award-winning journalist and documentary producer, panelists included Hon. Ken Ofori-Atta, Ghana’s Minister for Finance; J. Steven Dowd, U.S. Executive Director at the African Development Bank; Justin DeAngelis, Partner at Denham Capital; Dana Reed, trustee at The Africa Center; and Ikenna Emehelu, Partner at Norton Rose Fulbright.
With the growth and maturation of African businesses, U.S. companies can now do business with their counterparts in Africa instead of solely the government for business opportunities.
“Companies need to be talking to companies. Talking to governments will not determine where the capital goes,” said Grant T. Harris, CEO of Harris Africa Partners in a Fireside Chat. Harris previously served as former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council.
J. Steven Dowd, U.S. Executive Director at the African Development Bank, outlined the Trump Administration’s “America First” policy to bring more U.S. companies to Africa for business and investment. The Administration is focused on business in Africa, Dowd emphasized.
“Africa is open for business!” said Dowd.
Ghana’s Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta acknowledged the support and interest of U.S. government agencies in increasing U.S. trade and investment with Africa, but pointed out the “lack of urgency” on the U.S. side to do business in Africa compared to other countries and regions of the world.
“Ghana beyond aid offers opportunity but is also looking for partnerships and linkages for mutual benefit and inclusive growth,” said Ofori Atta.
While investors on the panel pointed out that U.S. investors are missing out on solid investment opportunities.”The African continent always presents enough opportunity which means lots of deal flow,” said Reed of The Africa Center. “Accessing them means engaging in networks and ecosystems and demystifying the negatives.”
Justin DeAngelis of Denham Capital, a private equity firm investing in energy, power and mining, reiterated that there’s room for more U.S. investors in Africa and said investors should not allow perceived business risks to deter them from investing, noting that there is risk everywhere.
Ikenna Emehelu, Partner at Norton Rose Fulbright, spoke about how his law firm steps in to structure deals and mitigate risks for investors.
“Let’s look at risk on the other side,” said Amina Hersi Moghe Osman, CEO of Horyal Investments, a Frontier Leader. Hersi shared her experience in building the largest sugar factory in Uganda, where she often had to put forth her own resources to start the project due to the challenges of accessing financing from commercial banks.
The forum closed with a presentation from the USAID’s Southern Africa Trade and Investment Hubs on the role of the Trade Hubs in boosting U.S.-Africa trade and economic ties.