This is the first of a four-part series exploring U.S. President Barack Obama’s upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Aug. 4-6 in Washington, D.C. Part one illustrates the issues and events surrounding the summit.
The upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit will focus on trade and investment opportunities that could mean new markets for U.S. companies. But even U.S. CEOs already doing business in Africa aren’t necessarily fully committed, a stakeholder told AFKInsider.
The first-of-its-kind meeting in Washington, D.C. starting Monday, Aug. 4-6 will bring together about 45 heads of state and 100 ministers from across Africa. The hope is those in attendance will build on the progress made since U.S. President Barack Obama’s trip to Africa last summer.
The stated goal of the summit: to highlight U.S. commitment to Africa’s security, democratic development, and its people.
Monday Aug. 4 is set aside for side events including five “signature events” focused on different topics and different elements in which the U.S. federal government will participate, a U.S. State Department official told AFKInsider.
Those five sessions include: Civil Society; Global Health; Women’s Issues; Wildlife Trafficking; and, Climate Change and Food Security.
There are hopes that some U.S. companies will see the African Union’s “common African position on climate change” as a business opportunity and an opportunity for technology transfer.
“I think there is (interest) and we’re encouraging it as we are seeing companies interested in the issues of climate change as a business opportunity,” said Stephen Hayes, president and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa in an AFKInsider interview.
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U.S. trade representative Michael Froman will host the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Ministerial at the World Bank. It’s there that African and U.S. trade officials will discuss the future of the U.S.-Africa trade program. The U.S. plans to pursue renewal of the AGOA legislation, which expires in 2015.
“AGOA has been largely one way and hasn’t really worked as well as I think that people had hoped,” Hayes said. There are bound to be some changes made, he added. “There does need to be some changes to make it far more effective and also to make it more supportive of the U.S. economy as well.”
The Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees will host a welcome reception for the African leaders on Capitol Hill Aug. 4.
On Tuesday, Aug. 5, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Bloomberg Philanthropies’ former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg will co-host the U.S.-Africa Business Forum. This full-day event at the Mandarin Oriental will focus on the new economic realities African trade and investment opportunities hold for U.S. CEOs.
“They’re expecting about 300 people and I don’t have the list – it’s ever changing, and Commerce and Bloomberg are the ones that are managing it with the White House,” a State Department official told AFKInsider.
The “select” U.S. business leaders will consist of those already actively investing in Africa, and others who are considering the possibilities of new opportunities for trade and investment in the region. Those invited range from small enterprises to large multinational companies involved in power and energy, infrastructure, capital investment, information and communication technologies, consumer goods, and agriculture.
“I think that the White House felt that they needed a prominent CEO that was easily identified by other CEOs to draw CEOs into the program. So, U.S. Department of Commerce and Bloomberg have selected the CEOs to be there,” Stephen Hayes, president and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa told AFKInsider.
The nonprofit Corporate Council on Africa helps U.S. companies do business in Africa and is the designated private sector facilitator for both the Power Africa and Trade Africa initiatives.
Hayes said it’s problematic that the people who do the work on African market development are often not the company CEOs, but rather the company’s Africa staff: vice presidents and so forth.
“(The Administration is) thinking is that if you’re going to get more U.S. companies involved, you have to get the CEO turned on to Africa. And that’s an uphill climb in a lot of places,” Hayes told AFKInsider. “And even some of our companies tell us the same thing — that their CEOs aren’t necessarily committed.”
The forum will inform CEOs about U.S. government support for investors and exporters through agencies such as the U.S. Export-Import Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation in addition to building working relationships between the African and U.S. private and public sectors.
“Power Africa will be covered, Trade Africa, some of the investment opportunities and public-private partnerships, and Doing Business in Africa, which is a Commerce Department initiative,” the State Department official told AFKInsider. “We’re also expecting some folks from Congress to be there.”
The Commerce Department’s Business in Africa Campaign was created in 2012 for the purpose of increasing trade promotion and enticing more U.S. companies to investigate sub-Saharan trade and investment possibilities.
According to the State Department, the African business leaders invited were identified by the department’s U.S. missions in the field, as well as U.S. business leaders, African heads of state, U.S. government agencies, and members of Congress.
President and Michelle Obama will host a dinner Aug. 5 at the White House for African heads of state and government and select guests.
On Wednesday, Aug. 6, African leaders will meet all day at the U.S. State Department with Obama and other agency officials during three sessions.
The first opening plenary session, “Investing in Africa’s Future,” will involve a discussion of inclusive, sustainable development as well as fostering sustainable economic growth.
Next, the Peace and Regional Stability session will focus on shared concerns regarding regional peace and discuss how to further augment cross-boarder security cooperation, including the challenges and opportunities in advancing these shared security goals.
Finally, the session on Governing for the Next Generation will focus on the responsibility of all African governments to plan for the next generation by tackling obstacles to job development. One focus will be on resources squandered to corruption and illicit finance in Africa, and explore how the U.S. and African governments can jointly redirect revenue toward inclusive economic growth; transparent and effective institutions; and provide opportunities for youth.
Michelle Obama will mingle with the spouses of the African leaders during an event, co-hosted by former First Lady Laura Bush and the Bush Institute at The Kennedy Center. The daylong spouses symposium will focus on the impact of investments in education, health, and public-private partnerships.
According to the State Department, those African leaders who were invited are in good standing with the African Union and the U.S., “so there are a few countries that were excluded, including Zimbabwe, Sudan, Central African Republic, and Guinea-Bissau.”
“I don’t have any idea who’s coming when and for how long – you know how these things go. They’re presidents, heads of states, they may come for the whole week, they may come for just the plenary session,” said the State Department official.
“I think just about all of them will come with maybe one ore two exceptions – we’ll see. And it probably has nothing to do with other countries being excluded,” Hayes told AFKInsider.
While Obama is expected to participate in a portion of the Tuesday Business Forum, there are no one-on-one White House meetings so far planned with any African leaders.