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Secretary Ross's Keynote Address at the U.S.-Ghana Business Forum

AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Introduced by Joe Mensah, President of AmCham Ghana.

Good afternoon, and thank you, Joe, for that kind introduction. Thank you, too, Vice President Bawumia, and the Ministers from the Ghana government who are with us today. And a special thank you to the American Chamber for hosting this gathering of leaders from the Ghana government and business community, along with your members and guests.

Thank you for graciously hosting our team from the Commerce Department, along with representatives from 10 other federal agencies, and the 20 or so American company executives who are members of the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa. This council has been an instrumental force in keeping the nation’s focus on the benefits of building strong commercial ties with Africa. I hope that the networking that is taking place is fruitful for all of you.

I am here to reinforce an important message to the government and business communities in Ghana and all of the countries of Africa: The United States is committed to being a strong, long-term, and stable partner in your economic development. We want to see all the governments in Africa succeed in improving the business climate, thereby enabling the growth of the digital economy, and creating internationally competitive and productive agricultural, health care, energy, manufacturing and service sectors. We know that strong economic growth leads to strong societies.

We are also here because we understand the importance of Africa and its 1.3 billion citizens to the global economy; its growth and potential; and its influence on so many aspects of the daily international flow of goods and services. We are taking a whole-of-government approach to significantly deepen our commercial engagements with Africa, and we hope to create new pathways for long-term trade and economic partnerships.

As I mentioned, within our delegation, there are executives from more than 20 leading American companies. The delegation also includes leaders from virtually every U.S. government agency involved in Africa.

To give you an indication of how important this trip is for the U.S. government, here are the agencies represented in our delegation:

  • The U.S. Department of Commerce;
  • The State Department;
  • The U.S. Department of Treasury;
  • The Department of Defense.

There are officials from:

  • The White House National Security Council;
  • The Overseas Private Investment Corporation;
  • The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative;
  • The U.S. Agency for International Development;
  • The U.S. Trade and Development Agency;
  • The Export-Import Bank of the United States;
  • The Millennial Challenge Corporation; and the
  • U.S.-African Development Foundation.

There are more than 60 people from the United States in our group.

The agencies I mentioned are committing more than $5.4 billion to expand commercial ties to the four countries visited on this trip, Ghana being our last stop, with the first three being Ethiopia, Kenya, and Côte D’Ivoire.

During the delegation’s travels, the U.S. Department of Commerce has established government-to-government MOUs with Ethiopia, Kenya, and Ghana. These agreements demonstrate our commitment to sustainable, high-quality infrastructure development that will benefit millions of African citizens, and create goods jobs in Africa and the United States. We have also committed more than $20 billion to expand and deepen commercial ties between the United States and Africa, with grants from many of the organizations I mentioned as being on this trip.

We are here to expand trade and investment and to do so absent the abusive practices of our some of our trading competitors.

We do not seek to exploit the region’s natural resources, and we do not intend to leave African nations despoiled, and with unhealthy levels of debt.

In the short run, countries might benefit from such forfeiture, but over the long term, these practices hemorrhage wealth and breed contempt. We have no intention of working in such a manner.

In fact, African nations should be extremely comfortable engaging with American companies. American firms operating in Africa are required to abide by the Foreign Corrupt Policies Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1977. This law prohibits U.S. companies from bribing foreign officials or engaging in other corrupt practices to win contracts. This law has been instrumental in fighting global corruption. It is strictly enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice, and it provides officials and citizens in foreign countries with a guarantee that, when they do business with a U.S. company, they know that there are no clandestine deals, and no clandestine exchanges of cash-laden briefcases.

American companies operating in Africa are undertaking projects like Bridge Power, where General Electric and Endeavor Energy are teaming with Ghanaian firms to bring 400 megawatts of power generation online in Ghana.

American companies bring private-sector funding to the table, under conditions that are clearly articulated and understood.

One of our top priorities is to promote greater transparency in the procurement process and to facilitate fair competition in international trade for all companies engaged in international commerce. Everyone wins when there is fair and open competition on a level playing field with a transparent set of rules. We must fight corruption. It has no place in any democracy, and no place in civil society.

Our delegation to Africa has also been charged by President Trump to provide him with recommendations on how to increase the number of American firms doing business in Africa. The PAC-DBIA members that are here among you, myself included are, in fact, on a fact-finding mission. Best practices and opportunities will be shared with U.S. companies that are considering — or should be considering — establishing operations in Africa.

The government agencies I mentioned also will consider the council’s advice for strengthening our commercial ties. Since you have such an active chapter in a country conducive to investment, please feel free to reach out to any of us today or any time in the future with your suggestions on what we can do to spread the word and build our presence on this growing continent.

In the four countries that have been visited, the American companies who are traveling with the delegation have signed almost $1 billion in deals. It is an indication of how the United States is moving from an aid-based relationship with African countries to long-term trading partnerships.

This is already happening in Ghana, with your government’s “Ghana Beyond Aid” campaign, and your willingness to attract foreign direct investment.

We all know that the United States needs to step up its game in Africa. Trade flows between the United States and Africa have declined over the past four years. U.S. exports to Africa in 2017 were only $22 billion, a little more than half of what they were in 2014, when they reached $38 billion. The biggest declines were in civilian aircraft and engines, petroleum and light oils, passenger vehicles, gas turbines, and generator sets.

U.S. imports from Africa have dropped by an even greater amount — by more than two-thirds over the past decade — from a high of $113 billion in 2008 to $33 billion in 2017. Less than 1 percent of total U.S. global exports last year went to countries in Africa, lower than any region in the world.

Despite the declines in trade, many U.S. companies have maintained operations in Africa. They are eager to expand, so long as the conditions are right.

Just as the United States has had to address its own structural barriers to growth — its high tax rates and excessive regulations — African nations must do the same. We must encourage governments to address burdensome bureaucracies, ambiguous property laws, unreliable power systems, unskilled workforces, and procurement systems that are opaque and don’t pay for services rendered.

We see the hard work taking place in Ghana to improve conditions for business, investment, and workforce development, and we applaud your efforts. Good governance and transparent business transactions generate the economic growth required for the creation of the millions of jobs needed to assure social stability and a sense of hope for the future.

In Ghana’s case, good governance is paying off. The business climate makes Ghana a welcoming place for American investment. There is no discrimination against foreign-owned businesses, and your investment laws protect investors. Ghana’s strong economic growth rates have not gone unnoticed in the United States and throughout the continent, and the world.

U.S. trade between our countries reached $1.6 billion last year, with exports from the U.S. to Ghana of $800 million, and U.S. imports from Ghana of $700 million. We want to see this grow. We want to help Ghana move from being a natural-resource-based extraction economy to a manufacturing and service-based economy.

There are many great American companies able and willing to engage in that transition. That is why we are here.

American companies provide the world’s highest quality products and services. They are great partners.

It is a pleasure to be here with them, and with you. Thank you for the long-standing friendships that exist between America and your great nation, and may we all prosper together. Thank you.

Leadership