Wednesday, April 18, 2018: Africa Investment Rising U.S. Roadshow Tour DC Launch & Opening Forum
The Initiative for Global Development (IGD) officially kicked off its inaugural Africa Investment Rising U.S. Roadshow Tour on April 18 with a celebratory evening reception at the Senate Dirksen Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
USAID and African Development Bank officials, members of the African diplomatic corps, U.S. congressional staffers, and senior executives and investors from the U.S. and African private sector were in attendance.
The U.S. roadshow tour, “Africa Investment Rising: Building Momentum for Investing in Africa’s Economic Prosperity”, 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.
In his opening remarks, IGD President & CEO Dr. Mima Nedelcovych welcomed guests by drawing attention to the evolving and dynamic economic landscape in Africa that set the context for the launch of the U.S. roadshow tour.
“The roadshow’s overall goal is to increase U.S. investment in Africa. With six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies, Africa shows vast investment potential. More American business leaders need to know about the opportunities to do business with Africa – it’s a win-win for the U.S. and Africa,” said Nedelcovych.
J. Steve Dowd, U.S. Executive Director of the African Development Bank, said his role at the Bank is to encourage U.S. companies to do business in Africa and asked attendees to view his office as a resource in assisting American companies to scale and operate on the continent. “Africa is open for business. If we can facilitate anything, our office is here to help,” said Dowd.
The Bank and the USAID East Africa and Southern Africa Trade Hubs are Premier Sponsors for the U.S. Roadshow Tour.
The Capitol Hill reception formally announced IGD’s partnership with the Bank on their Africa Investment Forum (AIF), which will take place from November 7-9, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The AIF is an initiative championed by the Bank to actively engage the private sector and to create investment-ready projects that have the capacity of transforming the continent. Prior to the AIF, IGD will host its Frontier 100 Forum on November 5-6.
The morning session on April 19 featured a high-level roundtable on “Mobilizing Financing from the U.S. Government for U.S. and African Businesses”. The panel of leading officials from U.S. government agencies highlighted how private sector leaders can engage with government financing agencies to expand their businesses.
Panelists included Geoffrey Okamoto, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Development Policy, U.S. Department of Treasury; Edward Burrier, Vice-President of External Affairs, Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC); Lida Fitts, Regional Director, Sub-Saharan Africa, U.S. Trade and Development; Alex Dixon, Finance, Investment, and Trade Practice Lead and Senior Director, Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC); and Eugene Cornelius, Deputy Associate Administrator for International Trade, Small Business Association (SBA).
Recurring themes throughout the discussion included providing assistance with entering and navigating new markets; mitigating risk; creating business-friendly regulatory environment; and ensuring accessibility of agency resources to U.S. businesses.
Cornelius discussed SBA’s zero-subsidy loan programs that guarantees up to 90% of loans for small businesses. “Our main mission is to create jobs and ensure access to capital, and 95% of the market is outside of the United States,” said Cornelius.
On the topic of risk mitigation, Fitts identified the time it takes to finance a project as a critical issue. “Shortening the window enables the country to make better decisions with bigger impact,” she stated.
During his networking lunch remarks, AfDB Senior Vice-President Charles Boamah noted the recent increase in political will to support the private sector on the continent. “Everybody agrees now that we have to use public sector money in a smarter way to help the private sector,” said Boamah.
The Private Sector Engagement Forum session in the afternoon featured top USAID leadership and private sector leaders for an action-oriented discussion on building successful cross-sectoral partnerships to promote sustainable development and economic prosperity on the continent.
Oren E. Whyche-Shaw, Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Bureau for Africa, Beth Dunford, Administrator in the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Food Security and Deputy Coordinator for Development for Feed the Future; Matt Rees, Deputy Director for Power Africa; Gregory Simpkins, USAID’s Senior Advisor in the Bureau for Africa; C.D. Glin, President and CEO, US Africa Development Foundation (USADF); Florie Liser, President and CEO, Corporate Council on Africa (CCA); Matt Essieh, CEO, EAI Information Services; and Abdu Mukhtar, Director of Industrial & Trade Development, African Development Bank.
The Private Sector Engagement Forum was designed to be a highly interactive and forward-thinking session with development actors in Africa that engaged the audience to allow for an open and interactive dialogue with the private sector attendees.
With the unveiling of the USAID restructuring plan, Deputy Assistant Administrator Whyche-Shaw noted that the agency is “ in the process of evolving.”
“We are rethinking how we are engaging with the private sector: both for U.S. businesses and African businesses,” said Whyche-Shaw.
Deputy Coordinator Rees stated that Power Africa’s aimed to de-risk, enhance and enable the environment to support African governments in expanding access to power generation.
On the legislative side, Senior Advisor Simpkins described how AGOA must evolve from its origins as a government-to-government initiative that has left out the main players: the business leaders.
Representing Premier Sponsors USAID East African and Southern Africa Trade Hubs, USAID Southern Africa Mission Director John Groarke closed the day with remarks emphasizing the vital role that determination, perseverance and courage plays in doing business in Africa.