Posted at 5:52 PM
Today, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews, on behalf of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, attended the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (PAC-DBIA) in Washington. The PAC-DBIA brought together business leaders and government officials to discuss strategies designed to strengthen commercial engagement between the United States and Africa. In the final meeting of its inaugural term, PAC-DBIA adopted five new recommendations to drive sustainable growth and investment in Africa.
In his remarks, Deputy Secretary Andrews noted the PAC-DBIA’s impact on the Obama administration’s work, and announced the Council’s next steps to even the playing field for U.S. companies and encourage foreign direct investment into Africa. Deputy Secretary Andrews stressed the importance of events such as the upcoming 2016 U.S.-Africa Business Forum to highlight commercial opportunities in Africa.
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Dominic and Karen. I want to extend a warm welcome to everyone here today. I know that each of you – and your staffs – have worked hard over the past year and a half to make PAC-DBIA a real success.
It’s also great to see Wally Adeymo, Gayle Smith, Lee Zak, Elizabeth Littlefield, and so many other colleagues from throughout the Administration here. Your participation reflects President Obama’s commitment to strengthening our economic and commercial ties with Africa through close and constant interagency collaboration.
I also want to say that Secretary Pritzker sends her apologies for missing today’s meeting. But when the President asks you to join him for the North American Leaders Summit, it is hard to say no. I do want to note how important she views this Council’s work and how much she would have liked to be here. She asked that I pass along your recommendations and share with you how much she values your service.
As you know, President Obama issued an executive order to create this council following the 2014 U.S.—Africa Business Forum here in Washington– when American companies announced over $14 billion in investments in Africa.
The President charged Secretary Pritzker with assembling a council that could offer advice on how to create jobs in the United States and Africa through trade and investment, connect American businesses with potential African partners, and keep the private sector engaged in policymaking and our investment strategy in Africa.
Everyone on this Council brings extensive experience in Africa and unique private sector perspectives to the table. You represent companies of every size and sector – from finance to agriculture to health care. Your recommendations have helped us develop new strategies for increasing commercial engagement, creating jobs, and expanding economic opportunity throughout the United States and Africa.
For example, your input helped us launch an Institutional Investor Roadshow, and we’ve already held two successful events. Our first event brought delegations from six African nations to New York City to meet with 20 top U.S. investors. And earlier this spring, we held another event here in Washington following the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission meeting.
Your recommendations were also instrumental to our ongoing development of a U.S.-Africa Infrastructure Center pilot project and our first-ever cold-chain symposium on the East Africa region, which included the release of an assessment report on the Kenyan market. Additionally, your recommendations were instrumental in the Department of Commerce’s continued efforts to find digital solutions that address expansive and complex transportation challenges.
Your recommendations also influenced our decision to organize a fact-finding trip to Nigeria and Rwanda led by Secretary Pritzker earlier this year. I look forward to hearing some of your insights from that trip later today.
I know that the she considers that visit to be one of the most significant trips she has taken while at the Department of Commerce – and this is from a Secretary who has traveled to more than 40 countries.
Still, our work is far from complete. We must continue seeking solutions to build modern infrastructure, build more jobs and opportunity for young people, and expand access to education and the internet.
President Obama believes – as do we – that increasing collaboration between U.S. business leaders and the African business community is essential to overcoming these challenges. At the 2014 U.S.-Africa Business Forum, the President made clear that he does not want to simply sustain our current trade and investment relationship – he wants to build on it.
In other words: we all have a mandate to strengthen our engagement with Africa.
Our sustained focus on Africa is not just strategically important. It is also good business. According to the United Nations, Africa has a fast-growing middle class and the fastest-growing population of any continent. By 2050, 25 percent of the world’s population will be African, and this will increase to nearly 40 percent by 2100.
Despite this tremendous growth, only a small percentage of U.S. companies do business in Africa. Together, we must do more to ensure our businesses, investors, and entrepreneurs capitalize on the extraordinary opportunities that await them on the continent.
We are pleased that the Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies will co-host a second U.S.-Africa Business Forum in New York City on September 21. We are excited that President Obama and several African Heads of State will attend. We plan for this year’s forum to be even more successful than the last. We look forward to facilitating meetings and discussions at this year’s forum that will spark new interest among investors and spur new business-to-business partnerships.
In 2014, we answered the question, “Why Africa?” This year, we will answer the question, “How?” How do you effectively do business in Africa? How can we grow partnerships between U.S. and African companies? How do we spur trade, investment, and job creation between our two continents?
All current PAC-DBIA members are invited. You have spent over a year and half working on these issues. We know that you have solutions to share. That’s why we need you there.
In 2012, before the creation of this Council, President Obama announced his groundbreaking U.S. Strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa. Four years later, our Administration is as committed as ever to Africa’s future. That’s why President Obama has directed the Department of Commerce to renew the PAC-DBIA for another term.
The Department of Commerce is committed to this council and to the continuation of its mission: to increase trade and investment and to build prosperity throughout the United States and Africa.
Thank you for the time and effort you have devoted to the PAC-DBIA. I look forward to hearing your observations and recommendations today – and to your continued engagement in the years to come. Thank you.