Posted at 4:05 PM
Guest post by Laura Lane, President of Global Public Affairs at UPS and Vice Chair of PAC-DBIA
I look forward to assuming a new leadership role with a platform designed to foster dialogue and develop solutions to strengthen trade and investment between African countries and the United States. As Vice Chair of the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (PAC-DBIA), I am ready to get to work identifying ways that consumers and businesses, African and American alike, can thrive by working together.
When I first stepped foot in Africa as a young Foreign Service Officer in 1994, I did not know how much the continent would shape my life. Working in Kigali, Rwanda was a challenging assignment, one marked by an unfolding genocide that would forever inform how I engaged with the world. I had to leave the country at the height of violence — and returned months later determined to be a stronger advocate for the continent and a more effective force for good moving forward.
I had the opportunity to return again to Kigali this spring for the World Economic Forum on Africa, and was proud to announce a new partnership that my company was launching in the country to help bring life-saving medicines to remote areas using drone technology.
More recently, this August, I volunteered at an orphanage in Swaziland run by Heart for Africa. The organization, started in 2006, is currently home to 138 children — and is working to accommodate the unfortunate steady stream of children in need of care through the unwavering commitment of the staff to ensure every child is given food, clothing, health care and, most importantly, an education. I saw the smart and simple solutions the organization is using to meet its agriculture export goals and water needs at a low cost, and came away inspired by the power of what is possible.
My experiences in Africa underscore the ability for creative people to use technology and innovation to solve problems and save lives — and they speak volumes about the capacity for growth through collaboration.
We see the potential for progress not just with respect to humanitarian aid. The world is more connected than ever through commerce, and that offers increasing promise for communities, in the United States and Africa, to find ways to grow more — together.
As President of Global Public Affairs at UPS, I see every day how trade is so vital to our company and our people. Bringing down barriers to trade, and making it easier for businesses to go global, has a big impact on the growth of an economy. As American companies look to reach more consumers in Africa, they need reduced barriers, transparent regulations, and a stable rule of law. African companies and entrepreneurs in turn need access to capital, skills, and exporting know-how to grow their businesses.
UPS operates in 51 countries in Africa — mostly through local agents, though we have wholly owned operations in Morocco and South Africa. We see how trade within the continent, and with the United States, is dampened by cumbersome customs processes and inconsistent regulations. But we also see the potential for streamlining the way businesses enter these new markets, and for creating better connections between Americans and Africans.
I’m honored to be part of a group of dedicated leaders who will work to promote strong business growth between the United States and Africa. Working with partners on both sides of the ocean, I’m confident we can find new ways to improve the economic relationship between the United States and Africa, and create growth for the 1.5 billion consumers this relationship represents.