WASHINGTON DC – In a move targeted at increasing United States business in Africa, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce established the U.S.-Africa Business Center in November 2015. It will be used to help the American business community engage with Africa’s regional economic communities, the established African private sector and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
“Since embarking on our initial Africa program in May 2009, the Chamber has made great strides bridging the gap between U.S. business and Africa,” said Scott Eisner, president of USABC and vice president of the U.S. Chamber. “We’re taking our next step as the leader of the U.S. private sector’s commitment to Africa, with the goal of advancing policies that attract greater investment and support trade with our partners throughout the continent.”
This comes on the heels of the renewal of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in June 2015 by the U.S. Congress. AGOA offers a boost in trade between the U.S. and Africa by providing African countries with duty-free access to American markets for select goods. The AGOA program was extended for a period of ten years.
In July 2015, President Barack Obama visited Africa to support United States business in Africa. While attending the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya, he said, “Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, people are being lifted out of poverty, incomes are up and the middle class is growing.”
Following Obama’s visit, 100 U.S. companies took part in a U.S. Department of Commerce program known as the trade-winds initiative. The companies participated in a week-long trading mission where they visited the eight leading economies across the African continent. The companies announced deals worth more than $14 billion from the campaign.
Building on this momentum, the U.S.-Africa Business Center intends to increase United States business in Africa by reviewing and revitalizing existing Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has with regional trading blocs within the African continent. These include the Ghana Investment Promotion Center and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The center should also assist with the formalization of MOUs with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC).
In increased investment and trade, the U.S.-Africa Business Center will connect with government and business leaders by expanding the chambers’ in-country teams in Kenya, Ivory Coast, South Africa and Nigeria. It is also set to increase engagement with American Chamber of Commerce’s partners in 17 African countries.
The U.S.-Africa Business Center has powerful founding member companies such as General Electric, IBM, Microsoft, Caterpillar and Black & Veatch that already have a presence in the African continent.
“The message from the U.S. business community is clear: Africa is a rapidly growing region with great opportunity for investment and trade,” said Jay Ireland, the president and CEO of General Electric Africa – and the chairman of the U.S.-Africa Business Center. “The U.S.-Africa Business Center will provide U.S. companies a vehicle to promote trade and investment in Africa and increase U.S. business engagement in the region. We will support building local technical and business talent, local manufacturing, and deepening financial markets.”
Sources: African Business Review, Bridges Africa, ECOWAS News Today, Enterprising Investor, The Wall Street Journal, U.S Chamber of Commerce