Good evening everyone. I want to thank Steve Hayes and the Corporate Council on Africa for hosting the reception tonight for the AGOA Ministerial.
As the Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs, I have attended many meetings and conversations about the U.S. Government’s commitment to AGOA – and to strengthening our trade and investment ties with Africa. That included my luncheon yesterday, where African Trade Ministers and Members of Congress discussed that very question – how we can work together and build on those ties.
In all these conversations, one thing is very clear. President Obama believes in Africa. And he believes in updating and extending AGOA – which he considers the cornerstone of our trade and investment relationship.
And yesterday, at the AGOA Ministerial, U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman underscored that again – as he outlined the Obama Administration’s recommendations to Congress.
They included many things favorable to Africa’s growth such as renewing AGOA and its third country fabric provisions – which allow for apparel made with fabric from outside Africa to enter the U.S. duty free.
They included simplifying the rules of origin to make it easier for African firms to export to the United States while promoting further production in Africa.
And they included strengthening AGOA’s eligibility criteria and review processes so we can raise and enforce standards.
I am so delighted to be here, because while we talk at the government-to government end about building ties, you are the ones who are making it real. You are making the business deals and the investments. You are bringing forward the ideas and projects that will –ultimately – bring jobs to the United States, to Africa – and help a continent grow.
I know – as members of CCA – you recognize the opportunities that Africa offers the private sector. It is the fastest growing population in the world. It has a rapidly expanding middle class. Nine of the 20 fastest growing urban areas in the world are in Africa – cities like Bamako, Lagos, Kampala, Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. That’s almost half of them!
And with that growth, we are also seeing improved governance, greater participation in global trade, more use of technology, and much more investment in both hard and soft infrastructure.
These are the kind of qualities that are attracting investors and businesses from all around the world.
You also know that the U.S. private sector can bring good things in the other direction: new technology, ideas and opportunities – including for small and medium size enterprises and for women.
At the U.S. Embassy level, too, we are working hard to support U.S. businesses find more opportunities. Perhaps you’ve heard of our Direct Line to American Business program. That’s where our Ambassadors, economic and commercial officers engage with U.S. businesses through webinars or teleconferences, and give them reliable and up-to-date information about opportunities in their host countries. In fact, more U.S. embassies in Africa have conducted Direct Line calls for American businesses than any other embassy in the world.
Our embassies also have another service. It’s called BIDS. That stands for our Business Information Database System, and it provides U.S. businesses with information about foreign government and multilateral development bank procurements. And we are expanding the BIDS system to work with countries in Africa to bring about more investment and procurement opportunities.
So everywhere you look, our commitment is firm, our ties are growing, and the future looks very bright for U.S. businesses, for American workers, and for African businesses and for its young people. That’s a future that can benefit a lot of people.
So thank you, again to the Corporate Council on Africa for hosting tonight’s event and to everyone for your interest in building on what President Obama recently called – quote – “The Africa that so often is overlooked in the media — the Africa that is innovative and growing and dynamic.”