U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit: CEOs Promise To Push AGOA Further

U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit: CEOs Promise To Push AGOA Further

The United States House of Representatives on Wednesday hosted an event titled “A Dialogue With African CEOs” that brought together women and minority business owners, chief executives from across Africa and U.S. and SME entrepreneurs.

The focus of the panel discussion was to examine possible business partnerships between African business and government with their American counterpart through the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) that was set up 14 years ago.

Event host Gregory Meeks, Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Africa Task Force co-chair, said when the U.S. congress enacted AGOA “It was with a view to expanding growth and opportunity in Africa like never before,” but their push for a “high-level dialogue” with their African counterparts never materialized until now.

“I’m glad to say that 14 years later we’re having our first U.S.-Africa summit. As I look back, it’s clear to me that those years of waiting have not been in vain,” Meeks said.

He pointed out that under AGOA, U.S. imports had grown from roughly $8 billion to three times that amount between 2001 and 2013, adding that the momentum of the summit would push these figures further — for example, an increase in the 300,000 jobs in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 120,000 jobs in the U.S. that have already been created.

AGOA was aimed at helping Africa to use trade rather than aid to develop its generally small and fragmented economies, allowing a host of goods and services to enter the American market on preferential terms.

Measures such as AGOA and export trade guarantees are vital supports for expanding trade between African countries and the U.S.

U.S. Trade Secretary Michael Froman said on Tuesday that discussions would continue about African calls for the next AGOA to last for a full 15 years, to improve planning in long-term investment sectors such as textiles.

“The congress ought to take swift action to ensure this program continues,” Steny Hoyer, U.S. House Democratic Whip said about the act.

“I feel conformable in committing to you that we will get it done,” congresswoman and CBC Africa task force co-chair Karen Bass added.

More Than A Networking Opportunity

Wednesday’s CEO’s event created a platform to stir up conversation about future deals between America’s and Africa’s corporate. Already U.S. President Barak Obama has announced deals from the summit worth $33 billion.

One of the world’s biggest conglomerates, GE — previously known as General Electric — announced $2 billion in investments in Africa at this summit.

Questions from the audience during the “Ask the Ministers” panel allowed for business owners to pitch business products and solutions to African ministers of agriculture and energy – two key sectors in driving development on the continent.

“One good thing about the entire process is that it was happening at a time when President Obama declared the Power Africa initiative,” Chinedu Nebo, Nigeria’s minster of power said about the country’s energy sector privatization.

He along with Bruno Kapandji, Democratic Republic of Congo’s minister of Energy stressed the need for more participation from America’s private sector.

“We are not looking for handouts, we’re looking for partners,” Nebo said. “We’re not looking for aid, we’re looking for investment.”

During the infrastructure and financial markets panel session Nigeria’s Heirs Holdings Limited chairman Tony Elumelu told the audience that “Engaging with Africa in business in the 21st century will put money in your wallet. This will happen only if you make the call for American investors to invest in Africa.”

The CEO’s meeting closed out Obama’s unprecedented three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington. Much of the summit has focused on Africa’s economic potential and new financial commitments from U.S. businesses.