Business opportunities in Africa were prominently featured in September as the Obama Administration implemented a number of initiatives to draw the U.S.-Africa trade and investment relationship into sharper focus.
The Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies co-hosted the biennial U.S.-Africa Business Forum in New York on September 21, 2016. The Forum was attended by delegations from 44 countries, including 29 heads of State, and featured keynote addresses from Nigerian President Muhammadu Bahari and President Obama, both of whom emphasized Africa as a prime destination for U.S. investment. The President also highlighted the marked shift in U.S.-Africa engagement from aid to trade, and announced the mobilization of more than $9 billion in new trade investment deals inked in the margins of the Forum, including a number of public-private partnerships in infrastructure, energy, women’s empowerment, and anti-corruption. During the Forum, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced the establishment of the second President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa, a body of senior U.S. executives tasked with advising the President on ways to strengthen commercial engagement between the U.S. and Africa.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released Beyond AGOA, the Administration’s vision for a deepened trade and investment relationship with the African continent. The report aims to build on the increasing dynamism of the U.S.-Africa trade and investment relationship, and looks ahead to the eventual expiration in 2025 of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which currently provides unilateral market access preferences for some 38 sub-Saharan African countries exporting to the U.S. With an emphasis on finding new structural approaches to boosting balanced bilateral trade, USTR calls for commitments on a number of policy “building blocks”, including trade facilitation, intellectual property, labor, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, market access, services, investment, environment, technical barriers to trade, and transparency and anti-corruption. This represents an important engagement opportunity for U.S. businesses wishing to position themselves for a growing trading relationship with fast-growing African economies, as well as a chance to shape the discussion around reducing barriers to existing trade with the continent.
The release of the report coincided with the 15th annual U.S.–Sub-Saharan Africa Economic Cooperation Forum (otherwise known as the AGOA Forum), hosted in Washington, DC shortly after the U.S.-Africa Business Forum. The main focus of the Forum, comprising trade ministers across the AGOA region, is to improve AGOA utilization and identify new policies to strengthen the commercial linkages between the U.S. and the 28 AGOA beneficiary countries.