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Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves at the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa


Thank you, Judd, for those framing remarks, and for generously hosting us all here today. Thank you, Takreem, Rahama, and Peter, for your leadership of the PAC-DBIA, and thank you to all members of the PAC-DBIA for taking the time for this meeting and for all the work that has led up to today. I’m excited about today’s meeting.

I also want to take a moment to acknowledge two friends in the room: Scott Eisner, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-Africa Business Center, and Florie Liser, CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa. The Commerce Department collaborates so often and so constructively with both the Chamber and CCA, and you have been such big supporters of the PAC-DBIA over the years. I’m glad you both could join us today for this meeting.

I had the chance to meet most of the PAC-DBIA members informally at December’s U.S-Africa Business Forum. And my team has kept me and Secretary Raimondo informed on the progress that you have made. Both she and I look to benefit from these recommendations before we both visit the continent later this year. We are also committed to seeing how we can have a PAC delegation join on one of our trips.

Secretary Raimondo and I firmly believe in the President and Vice President’s vision for the U.S.-Africa partnership in the next decade.  This quintessential 21st-century partnership will be increasingly driven by trade, investment, and commercial ties, in sectors that will drive jobs and competitiveness on both sides of the Atlantic. The recommendations that we will hear today will be vital to turning the President’s vision into reality.

This convening of senior leaders from across the U.S. government is a testament to that, and it’s also the hallmark of this critical Advisory Council. Since the PAC-DBIA was established in 2014, over three consecutive administrations, executives from diverse and dynamic American companies have come together to illuminate new possibilities for strengthening the commercial ties between the United States and Africa.

Recommendations from this group have helped bring about real change and innovation in our approaches. PAC-DBIA recommendations have informed or directly led to:

  • evolutions in U.S. Government financing tools designed to leverage private capital for Africa, including our early experience with blended finance;
  • the Commerce Department’s creation of a new digital solution for disseminating early-stage trade leads to U.S. companies called “Express Leads Middle East and Africa”;
  • a new partnership between USTDA and the Government of Kenya under their Global Procurement Initiative;
  • and a new model of engagement to elevate our commercial diplomacy with African governments through bilateral commercial MOUs, an effort that began in 2018 during a PAC-DBIA trip to the Continent and has continued yielding new partnerships ever since, including our recent MOU with the Government of Zambia, signed by Secretary Raimondo, and announced by Vice President Harris during her visit to Zambia just two weeks ago.

PAC-DBIA members themselves have conducted high-impact trips to Africa in 2016 and 2018, and the PAC-DBIA was a key source of input helping to shape the implementation roadmap for the Prosper Africa initiative.

In this current term, the PAC-DBIA has organized itself into subcommittees aligned with the sectors we highlighted in sessions at USABF. The recommendations you are deliberating today will drive us forward from those discussions to the actions that will help us catalyze the flow of two-way trade and investment we know will be so crucial to the future of the U.S. and African economies.

So, as you begin today’s presentations, let me commit to you that my colleagues and I will consider each of your recommendations with as much careful thought as you put into developing them.

For our part at the Department of Commerce, Secretary Raimondo and I have mobilized our teams across all relevant bureaus of the Department for a coordinated strategy to engage U.S. businesses of all types and sizes across the United States and forge new connections with African partners. 

We are bringing all of our tools to bear as complements to the powerful resources and leadership represented by my colleagues here today.

With that, I think we’re all excited to dive into the presentations and discussion, so I’ll turn it back over to Rahama.