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Secretary Penny Pritzker Addresses the U.S.-Africa Business Forum on August 6, 2014 transcript

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Bloomberg:  Based on the incredible energy in this room, I've never been more optimistic about Africa's future.  And I know that President Obama and  Secretary Pritzker feel the same way.  The secretary deserves an enormous amount of credit for her leadership in pulling this conference together.  And it is now my pleasure to turn the floor over to her.  Secretary Pritzker.

    (APPLAUSE)

    PRITZKER:  Thank you.  Good morning, and welcome to all the heads of state, and leaders of businesses here with us today.   

    And thank you to Michael Bloomberg for your leadership.  And thank you to Bloomberg Philanthropies for your partnership in organizing this forum.  I also want to acknowledge my Deputy Chief of Staff, Theo LeCompte, who played the lead role on behalf of the Department of Commerce in putting together this extraordinary event.

    I have known Michael Bloomberg for over a decade.  He's been a great source of wisdom and advice to me.  And I've admired the way he led New York City, the way he's run his businesses, and the way he's committed himself and his organization to Africa and its people.

    It is always a great pleasure to work with him.  And as part of the largest gathering of African heads of state ever hosted by an American president, we are both excited to welcome you to this historic event, bringing together a remarkable number of CEOs to discuss business opportunities in Africa.

    Last year, President Obama traveled to the University of Cape Town to usher in a new chapter of the U.S. Africa relationship.  He called on students there, along with leaders from the 54 distinct countries of the African Union, and leaders from the United States, to embrace key tenets of his vision for our alliance; to advance progress in democratic institutions, to strengthen peace and prosperity, to encourage opportunity and development, and to spur economic growth, trade, and investment.

    As America's chief commercial officer, I feel strongly that this last pillar, the U.S.-Africa economic relationship, is fundamental to our mutual peace and prosperity.  We know that businesses serve as a key bridge between our continents.  But we also share the conviction that the ties of commerce can be stronger, deeper, and more lasting.

    When I led a trade mission to Nigeria and Ghana this past May, I heard a variation of this message from public- and private-sector leaders alike.  The U.S.-Africa commercial partnership is essential, and the time to do business in Africa is no longer five years away.  The time to do business there is now.

    Today, on both sides of the Atlantic, there's a clear, mutual desire to deepen our ties of trade and investment, because doing so will spur growth across the United States and the countries of Africa.  Investing in Africa will create jobs in Charlotte, North Carolina, and expand the power supply in Ghana because of the $175 million deal signed by SEWW Energy to upgrade Africa's electricity grid, a direct result of our recent trade mission.

    Investing in Africa will support workers in California, and strengthen the health of patients in Nigeria because of the MOU signed by Environmental Chemical Corporation to construct a state-of-the-art cancer institute in Ibadan.  

    Investing in Africa will spur job growth in Cincinnati through Procter & Gamble's $300 million investment in a new manufacturing plant near Lagos; because when P&G expands in Nigeria and elsewhere, it supports thousands of jobs at home.

    These deals and investments demonstrate that the time is right to work together as partners in a spirit of mutual understanding and respect, to raise living standards in all of our nations, and to address the challenges that impede our ability to develop closer economic bonds.

    Make no mistake, our economic and commercial partnership is two-way street.  Goods and services, exports from the United States to African markets, support roughly 250,000 jobs here at home.  As Africa's middle class continues to expand, we hope to see our export numbers grow, too.  

    And through SelectUSA, the administration is actively encouraging African companies to increase their presence here in the United States.  Closer economic ties and rising demand create ample opportunities for businesses in the United States and Africa to build new partnerships, reach new markets, and support new jobs in the years to come.

    With each passing day, our commercial connections are deepening, our business bonds are increasing, and our trade partnership is maturing.  Yet, we have only just begun to scratch the surface.  

    President Obama and the Department of Commerce are ready to write the first pages of the new chapter of our relationship by taking our alliance to the next level.  To advance the president's vision for Africa, we are expanding our foreign commercial service presence.  These are our economic diplomats on the ground, in-country, that help American businesses navigate each African market.  

    We are doubling the number of commercial offices in Africa, with new sites in Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Tanzania.  We're expanding offices in Ghana, Kenya, Libya, and Morocco.  And we are returning a foreign commercial service presence to the African Development Bank for the first time in three years.

    The Department of Commerce, along with our partners at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, is today announcing 10 new trade missions to Africa, and 10 reverse trade missions to the United States by 2020.  

    Our National Institute of Standards and Technology is launching the Global Cities Teams Challenge, to create teams of cities and innovators working together on issues like air quality, resource management, health care delivery, and modern energy grids, to utilize the best technology to build smart cities.  

    And to promote U.S. industry engagement in Africa, we have created a one-stop-shop Web portal, Trade.Gov/DBIA, Doing Business in Africa, where American businesses can learn about African markets, find financing tools, and discover potential projects, contacts and resources.

    We want to make doing business in Africa easier for every American company.  This is the moment of opportunity.  A decade from now, we will look back at this moment as the start of something important, or see a missed opportunity.  The choice is up to all of us gathered here today.

    Today's agenda features conversations on financing and development, energy and infrastructure, good government, and public-private partnership, all meant to highlight the choices before us.  This historic forum will spotlight successful business models, and give you a chance to explore new partnerships, new relationships, with colleagues on the other side of the Atlantic.  This gathering marks only the beginning, a catalyst for each of us to pursue new deals, and new investments, as we build the next phase of the partnership between the United States and Africa.  

    One of the highlights of my trade mission to Africa this spring was visiting the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology in Ghana, where young innovators receive the training, mentorship, and guidance needed to take their ideas, and turn them into vibrant businesses.  These intrepid, young Africans want to learn how to build thriving enterprises.  If they had access to capital, there would be no limit to their potential.

    With the speed of technology today, and the global reach of communication, these entrepreneurs can build their businesses using only a cell phone, then sell their products around the world.  Any young person with a good idea can bring their products to the rest of the globe.  

    At Meltwater, I witnessed what the future of Ghana and the entire continent of Africa will look like if we do everything we can to support young entrepreneurs, and continue to build lasting partnerships.  These aspiring entrepreneurs are living proof of what Robert F. Kennedy described nearly 50 years ago at the University of Cape Town.  They represent ripples of hope.  

    Indeed, every entrepreneur in Ghana, Nigeria, Angola, or elsewhere, who starts a business, and embraces a new idea, represents a ripple of hope for the prosperity of the community.  Every student in Morocco, Ethiopia, or elsewhere, who earns a degree and joins the workforce, represents a ripple of hope for the future of a family.

    Every business owner in Mozambique, Kenya, or elsewhere, who decides to reach new customers by exporting more goods, represents a ripple of hope for the growth of a country.  And every African leader who embraces greater transparency and market access, speeds business processes, and roots out corruption, represents a ripple of hope for greater prosperity for their people, and for ours.

    So together, these ripples of hope will form a torrential current that lifts up all of us on a wave of opportunity.  This is our mission today, to work together to promote the future of shared prosperity, for both the United States and the nations of Africa.  

    As Faith Mangope, one of the Mandela Fellows, told other young African leaders and President Obama just this past week, and I quote, "Africa is no longer a sleeping giant, but is awake and open for business."

    With the leadership in this room, we will keep the U.S.-Africa economic partnership open for more growth and success.  We will keep the United States and Africa open for business, your business.  Thank you very much.  Enjoy the day.