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Historic Forum Yields Significant Gains for Africa-U.S. Business Ties

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Stefan M. Selig speaking with Elizabeth Littlefield, President & CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum

Guest blog post by the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Stefan M. Selig

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies co-hosted an event showing that Africa is one of the world’s next great sources of economic growth.

The first-ever U.S.-Africa Business Forum brought together American and African business leaders with the heads of nearly 50 African nations to exchange ideas and create partnerships that will promote trade, accelerate job growth, and encourage investment.

And this was not just an academic discussion. We built the kind of relationships that will help usher in a new level of success for the growing economies and businesses of Africa, as well as spur real gains for U.S. companies.

Several American companies, among others, announced new partnerships in Africa, resulting in multi-million and multi-billion dollar deals:

Also, as part of the White House’s Power Africa initiative—which pledges to invest $7 billion and create an additional 10,000 megawatts of cleaner electricity over the next five years— American company Contour Global secured a $120 million contract to rehabilitate an existing Senegalese power site and construct a new one. That deal will provide another 53 megawatts of electricity to Senegal’s citizens.

As excited as my colleagues and I are about these deals, contract signings weren’t the only highlights of the forum.

The Obama administration, Commerce, and ITA announced several programs and initiatives to help American companies have continued access to opportunities in Africa:

  • President Obama signed an executive order establishing the President's Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa, which will include private sector guidance in expanding the U.S.-Africa commercial relationship.
  • The DISCOVER GLOBAL MARKETS: Sub-Saharan Africa Forum that will take place in Atlanta on November 5th and 6th will connect U.S. business leaders to even more opportunities in some of the world’s most promising markets.
  • The Commerce Department’s U.S. Commercial Service will more than double its presence in Africa, increasing our ability to support businesses with market insight and business matchmaking. We will open offices in Angola, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Mozambique, and expand offices in Kenya, Ghana, Morocco, and Libya.
  • Commerce and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency will lead 20 African trade missions by 2020.
  • Commerce launched a new website highlighting African market information, export financing tools, and potential projects, contacts, and business resources.

I would like to thank Mayor Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies for all the hard work they put into the Forum. Without their leadership and support, the event wouldn’t have been nearly as successful.

If your company is ready to support economic, infrastructure, or business development in Africa, there’s never been a better time than now to contact your nearest Export Assistance Center.

I look forward to working with Secretary Pritzker, the Commerce team, and American and African business leaders as we continue to support the world’s next great economic success story.

Travel Journal: There’s No Place Like Nome!

Secretary Pritzker reviewing plans in Nome, Alaska with Joy Baker, Col. Christopher Lestochi and NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan

Last week, I embarked on my first trip as Commerce Secretary to Alaska to see how the Last Frontier directly contributes to our economy, and how the U.S. Department of Commerce can help further support Alaskan communities.

The Arctic’s importance to the Nation continues to grow as the impact of global climate change and loss of sea ice make the region much more accessible. This accessibility has inspired strong interest for new commercial initiatives in the region, including energy production, increased shipping, scientific research, tourism, and related infrastructure development. Last year, the Obama Administration introduced  the National Strategy for the Arctic Region, not only in recognition of the growing interest in and vulnerability of the region, but also to prioritize and integrate efforts across the Federal government to explore emerging opportunities – while simultaneously exploring efforts to protect and conserve this pristine environment.

During my trip, I explored the city of Nome, which is located on the edge of the Bering Sea on the northwest side of the 49th state. Once a gold mining town, Nome is one of the most remote communities in Alaska, with a population of 3,500.

My first stop was the Port of Nome. Joy Baker, Special Projects Director and former Harbormaster of the City of Nome, led me and my staff on a tour and described the economic impact and infrastructure challenges associated with increased Arctic shipping.  Although originally from San Antonio, Texas,  Joy has worked for the City of Nome for almost 25 years. Her passion for the city was obvious, and she explained how satisfying it was to see the expansion and development of the facility as the successful end result of many years of work and input about additional infrastructure needs in Nome.

After the port tour, we saw U.S. Arctic port infrastructure and vessels, ranging from small gold dredges to industry ships, giving us a better understanding of how the Department of Commerce’s work in implementing the Community Development Quota program in 1992 has been able to grow and further support economic development and achieve sustainable and diversified local economies in the region.

Having enjoyed the outdoors, we moved inside for a roundtable focused on new economic opportunities that are emerging as the impacts of climate change are felt in the Arctic region, including maritime transportation, fishing, and oil and gas activities. Various Alaska Native corporations, industries, and local, state, and federal officials offered a variety of perspectives which gave me a better sense of how the Department of Commerce can further our efforts to support the region.

We wrapped up the day with another productive and engaging roundtable centered on the threats from climate change, which are already impacting some Alaskan communities. These threats include exacerbated erosion and inundation frequency; and the shrinking of sea ice habitat affecting marine mammals.

While we face these challenges, my hope is that the Department can continue to do its part to facilitate trade and investment, assist with the development and management of natural resources, and provide the data and environmental intelligence that are critical to the safety and prosperity of individuals, communities and businesses that are dealing with a changing environment.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Alaska, and I look forward to strengthening our partnerships in Alaska and across the Arctic region in the coming months and years.

Commerce and NOAA Data Provide Critical Environmental Intelligence to Alaska

Secretary Pritkzer and NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan  visited the Alaska Weather, Water and Ice Center which is the National Weather Service’s (NWS) main operations center in Anchorage, Alaska

From supplying daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring, to managing fisheries management, supporting coastal restoration and promoting marine commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) products and services are critical to the country’s economic vitality. NOAA maintains a presence in every state, and has a particularly robust team in Alaska.

Secretary Pritzker visited Anchorage this week to see first-hand how Commerce helps Alaska stay “open for business” by supplying the environmental intelligence that citizens, planners, emergency managers and other decision makers rely on. Secretary Pritzker was joined by NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan on her first trip to Alaska.

Unlocking more of the Department of Commerce’s vast stores of data is one of the key pillars of the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda." In Alaska, the Department's data is critical to the safety and prosperity of individuals, communities and businesses that are dealing with a changing environment.

Secretary Pritzker and Dr. Sullivan visited the Alaska Weather, Water and Ice Center which is the National Weather Service’s (NWS) main operations center in Anchorage. The Center is also among the largest consolidated NWS operations centers in the country, containing four specialized operational units: the Weather Forecast Office including the Sea Ice desk; the Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center; the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit and the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center. No other forecasting operation is positioned to deliver such integrated information services – from marine weather and sea ice to hydrology to public and aviation forecasts – making it incredibly beneficial to Alaskan and Arctic decision makers.

In addition to the NWS Center and various forecast offices, NOAA facilities in the state include four marine laboratories, an atmospheric observatory, and a satellite command data acquisition station.

Later in the day, Secretary Pritzker and Dr. Sullivan met with about 75 NOAA employees to learn more about their work and thank them for their service. NOAA team members had the opportunity to provide their perspectives and discuss Alaska-specific issues.

Examples of Commerce data and research in Alaska include the following:

  • NOAA’s fisheries research and management programs, which are both vital to promoting sustainable use and conservation in light of a changing climate. Fishing is a $5.8 billion industry in Alaska, and supports 100,000 jobs. Fishery-related tourism also brings in more than $300 million annually for the state;
  • NOAA’s sea ice research which strengthens the forecasts of both ice and weather conditions, and helps build a better understanding of the direct links between sea ice and climate change;
  • NOAA essential decision support services that provide regional decision makers with forecasts and warnings for events like extratropical storms, tsunamis, floods, droughts, and volcanic ash;
  • Important NOAA services like mapping and charting, for coastal communities which improves safe Arctic maritime access and prepares communities for intensifying weather.