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Deputy Secretary Graves Concludes Trip to West Africa: Addresses Increasing Economic Empowerment of Women and Bilateral Commercial Engagement Across Continent

On Saturday, June 19, Deputy Secretary Don Graves concluded his trip to West Africa, where he met with representatives from the governments of Côte d'Ivoire & Ghana, participated in key commercial forums to drive investment and create opportunities for U.S. businesses across Africa, and engaged with private sector and NGO representatives. Deputy Secretary Graves is the highest-ranking official to visit West Africa since the beginning of the Biden-Harris administration.

Between June 11-15, Deputy Secretary Graves traveled to Abidjan, where he participated in the Africa CEO Forum, which is the largest annual gathering of the African private sector and attendance from heads of state, international investors, and global financial institutions. At the Forum, Deputy Secretary Graves announced the upcoming appointments of new private-sector representatives to the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (PAC-DBIA). He also promoted the upcoming U.S.-Africa Leader’s Summit and the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, which will be important venues to identify opportunities and strengthen the bilateral and commercial relationships between the U.S. and African countries. Deputy Secretary Graves highlighted the role that the U.S. private sector can play in helping African countries advance their development objectives, including the Government of Côte d’Ivoire’s National Development Plan.

Deputy Secretary Graves also met with members of the American and Ivoirian business community during his time in Abidjan. In particular, with the support of the U.S. Ambassador to Côte d'Ivoire Richard K. Bell, Deputy Secretary Graves met with Ivoirian women leaders from across the private, public, and NGO sectors, where he gathered input and suggestions on ways in which the Commerce Department and the Government of Côte d'Ivoire can best partner to support women’s economic empowerment in the country and across the continent. He addressed a 2019 World Bank report that stated Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest rate of entrepreneurship in the world, with women constituting 58% of this total. 

“Despite the overwhelming presence of women among Africa’s entrepreneurship base, women’s business performance in terms of wages paid, longevity, and profits falls below that of their male counterparts,” said Graves. “Increasing women’s leadership in international trade and business isn’t just the right thing to do to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion – it’s the right thing to do for the health of our economies.”

In addition to bilateral engagements with various ministers from the Government of Côte d’Ivoire and the leadership of the African Development Bank, Deputy Secretary Graves held a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Patrick Achi, where he expressed his appreciation for Côte d’Ivoire’s support for Ukraine and its condemnation of Russia’s unlawful aggression against a sovereign member of the United Nations. The Deputy Secretary and the Prime Minister also discussed the progress made on the Commercial Memorandum of Understanding established between the U.S. and Côte d’Ivoire, the Biden Administration’s Partnership for Global Infrastructure, and the U.S.-Africa Business Forum that will take place during the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit.

On June 15, Deputy Secretary Graves traveled to Accra and provided keynote remarks at the U.S.-Ghana Business Forum organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Ghana and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where he highlighted opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area. He also heard from the U.S. business community in Ghana on what the Commerce can do to support increased commercial engagement in the country.

“I am here to reinforce an important message from President Biden to our partners in the region,” said Graves. “The U.S. is committed to being a strong, long-term, and stable partner in your economic development. We share a common vision for a prosperous future that will result in a more equitable and accessible global economy.”

Deputy Secretary Graves also met with his counterparts at Ghana’s Ministries of Communications and Digitalization; Finance; and Trade and Industry to discuss the Biden Administration’s Partnership for Global Infrastructure and opportunities for the Commerce Department to deepen collaboration with each respective ministry. He also met with Ghana’s Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia to re-affirm the United States’ commitment to its partnership with Ghana and discuss opportunities to deepen our countries’ bilateral commercial engagement through the U.S.-Ghana Commercial Memorandum of Understanding.

“There is a lot on the horizon for the United States and Africa,” said Deputy Secretary Graves. “I intend to leverage what I’ve learned from my meetings with President Ouattara, Prime Minister Achi, Vice-President Bawumia, my Ivoirian and Ghanaian counterparts, and our private sector partners to inform our ongoing collaboration and contribute to successful future ventures that will enhance our commercial partnerships across the continent.”