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  • Deputy Secretary of Commerce, Don Graves, hosted a digital press briefing to discuss the outcomes of the U.S. Africa Business Forum (USABF).  Hosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Corporate Council on Africa, in partnership with the Prosper Africa initiative, USABF focused on advancing two-way trade and investment partnerships that bolster Africa’s role in the global economy, scale innovation and entrepreneurship, and drive advancements in key sectors. The Forum took place on day two of the ongoing U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C.

Download or listen to the audio here .

MODERATOR:  Good afternoon to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub.  We have a special edition of our briefing today, taking place at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., where it’s a rainy morning as a matter of fact.  I would like to welcome our participants from across the continent and thank all of you for taking part in this discussion.  We are very pleased to be joined by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves.  Deputy Secretary Graves will discuss the outcomes of yesterday’s U.S.-Africa Business Forum.  He too joins us from Washington, D.C.

We will begin today’s call with opening remarks from Deputy Secretary Graves, then we will turn to your questions.  We’ll try to get to as many of them as we can in the time that we have.  

So, as a reminder, today’s briefing is on the record, and with that, I will turn it over to Deputy Secretary Graves for his opening remarks.  

DEPUTY SECRETARY GRAVES:  Well, thank you so much and thank you all for joining us today.  I’d like to start by just saying that this week is an absolutely seminal moment in U.S.-Africa relations.  President Biden came into office on day one with a fierce determination to revitalize our partnerships with African countries.  Much of what we as an administration have done on the continent, including my trip to Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana earlier this year, has been leading up to this point.

Over the course of the last few days in the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, there has been a flurry of activity both at the convention center as well as events taking place along the margins of the summit, all of which have been aimed towards identifying or progressing on opportunities for closer cooperation between the United States and countries across the African continent.  We want to collaborate with the nations on the continent so together we can come up with innovative solutions to immediate and long-term global challenges.  

Leading up to the summit, I joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a roundtable with Prime Minister Patrick Achi of Côte d’Ivoire, where we discussed our governments’ respective efforts working in concert with our private sector partners, to identify opportunities across a variety of sectors to promote increased trade and investment – from transportation to the digital economy to agriculture.

For example, on Tuesday, I also helped to lead the U.S.-Africa Space Forum along the margins of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which has highlighted how outer space can be a catalyst to advance shared U.S.-Africa goals on Earth.  I emphasized the role of the commercial space industry as a driver of technological and private sector development in Africa and pointed to the U.S. private sector as the partner of choice for African countries with ambitious space commerce goals.  The forum celebrated the signature of the first two countries onto the Artemis Accords, which establishes a common framework to guide responsible space exploration.  Nigeria and Rwanda are a first for the continent, and we couldn’t be more excited that they joined that growing chorus of countries that are part of the Artemis Accords.  

Alongside Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area Wamkele Mene, my friend, as well as with the Presidential Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa Co-Chair Rahama Wright, we had a conversation at the Chamber of Commerce’s “Advance with Africa” event, where we discussed the resources that U.S. companies can leverage to do business across the continent.

The Chamber’s Advance with Africa program targets cities across the U.S. with sizable diaspora and minority business communities and high levels of interest from city, state, and federal officials to promote new and existing business linkages with Africa, to increase U.S. exports and investment, to showcase tools to support new market entrants, and to foster commercial opportunities for businesses across the United States and Africa.

Over the course of the summit, I’ve been meeting with leaders and counterparts from several countries across the continent, including Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zambia in addition to Côte d’Ivoire.

As you’re all aware, yesterday, during the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, President Biden also announced a new initiative on Digital Transformation with Africa.  As a signature presidential initiative, this program aims to expand digital access and literacy across the continent – something that I heard in every one of my bilateral engagements and what I heard directly when I visited the continent earlier this year.  The growth and expansion potential of Africa’s digital economy offers unbelievable opportunities to spur economic recovery and create meaningful, good-paying jobs for millions of Africans.

Later today, I’ll be joining some U.S. Department of Commerce colleagues, including Under Secretary for Minority Business Development Don Cravins and Assistant Secretary for Global Markets Arun Venkataraman, to discuss resources and programs that our department has to support women business owners, diaspora business owners, and business owners from underserved communities that are looking to export to global markets and African markets in particular.

Overall, the events and the conversations this week weren’t the culmination of our efforts, but rather, the end of just the beginning.  This is about building a much stronger relationship with African countries, and with African people, from here moving forward.

It’s been said over and over and over again, but it’s worth saying again once more.  This is about a partnership with Africa to address global challenges.  And from our perspective here at Commerce, it’s about climate; it’s about the digital environment; it’s about space commerce; it’s about small business; it’s about women-owned business; it’s about trade and investment flows that support jobs and create prosperity on the continent and here in the United States.

And with that, I’d be happy to take any questions that you might have. 

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Thank you, Deputy Secretary Graves.  For our first question we actually received two questions, which were similar, about the role of the diaspora from Ibrahim Suliman from Afro Arab newspaper and from Kamel Mansari, Jeune Indépendant, Algeria.  So, “How will the African diaspora be assisted in the future to strengthen trade between African countries and the U.S. market?  And will the executive order apply to all African countries or only to English-speaking African communities, and what are the issues that the African diaspora will deal with?”  

So, Deputy Secretary Graves.  

DEPUTY SECRETARY GRAVES:  Well, thank you both, Ibrahim and Kamel.  Really great question.  And I would first start by saying that something we’ve not always recognized here in the United States and – but it’s something that we at the government are paying very close attention to – the African diaspora in the United States is the largest in the world.  It’s some 47 million people who are immigrants from Africa or trace their roots through their ancestors to Africa.  That is a large and critically important source of strength for the United States and our business community.  

And while there’s already strong, deep, vibrant connections between the diaspora and – here in the U.S. and nations across the continent, we at the Department of Commerce are focused on engaging these communities, engaging these businesses, including diaspora-owned businesses, through a specific initiative called the Global Diversity Export Initiative.  This initiative will leverage the department’s global network of trade experts.  We have folks all across the United States – more than 100 U.S. cities – as well as our network of commercial officers in 80 countries around the world to – around the world, but importantly, in countries all across the continent – to engage with businesses, to identify export opportunities, to access financing, to connect with buyers, and to do a whole lot more.  

So that’s something that we’re doing here at the department, really driving opportunities between U.S. small- and medium-sized enterprises and connecting them with small, medium-sized enterprises across the continent.  It’s absolutely critical for us to advance the U.S. African diaspora, because we know that the continent is growing, it is getting younger, and we believe that the U.S. small business community, the diaspora community is also young and vibrant and can connect with many of these businesses, especially women-owned businesses on the continent.  

And I would say that we’re not just focusing on the English-speaking countries.  Of course, we want to connect with all of the countries across Africa, because we know that the African continent is evolving and is at a place that is really a jumping off point for the continent.  It is – will continue to grow and is really at the center of what I think will be global commerce for the next 20, 30, 40 years and beyond.

MODERATOR:  All right, very good.  Thank you, Deputy Secretary Graves.  So next we’d like to go to a live question from Peter Fabricius with the Daily Maverick in South Africa.

QUESTION:  Yeah, hello.  Thanks very much, Secretary Graves.  Could I just ask you about the future of AGOA, if you don’t mind?  There’s a lot of concern in Africa about it expiring in 2025.  And I believe that Africans would like it to be extended, and maybe not so much on the U.S. side.  I know there’s been some discussion earlier this week about a – I know President Biden mentioned a deal with the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, and so on.  Is the U.S. seeing these – that particularly, a sort of reciprocal arrangement with the continent-wide free trade area, as a substitute for extending AGOA?  Thank you.

DEPUTY SECRETARY GRAVES:  Thank you so much for that question.  We are very focused first on making sure that we take advantage of everything that AGOA offers, that we make sure that we create as many opportunities for trade and investment under AGOA.  And I know that Ambassador Tai hosted a number of African trade ministers for an AGOA ministerial meeting on Monday, where we reaffirmed our commitment to expanding trade and investment all across the continent.  And I believe that we’d all agree that there’s a need to strengthen implementation and to modernize AGOA so that we can move from just talking about these opportunities into concrete benefits for the African people.  And I think that that’s been underscored with the work that we’ve been doing at the Africa Leaders Summit.  

As to the question of extensions or renewals, I’ll just echo what Ambassador Tai said about this issue.  AGOA is an act of Congress, and we are at – in the administration are looking forward to continuing to engage with Congress in discussions as we get closer to the expiration of AGOA in 2025.  I will tell you this, that we at the Commerce Department are working and will be working very closely with our colleagues at the U.S. Trade Representative, working closely with congressional committees, and with our African counterparts to deal with this issue.  At the end of the day, we all need to come together and figure out the best mechanism for us to find ways to increase our connectivity, our trade relationships with the continent, as well as bilaterally with countries on the continent.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Deputy Secretary.  So next we have a couple of submitted questions from Carien Du Plessis in South Africa and from Shoshana Kedem in London.  Both questions are about the [Af]CFTA.  And how will the U.S. – how will the U.S. support the implementation of the [Af]CFTA, and how will it benefit trade between U.S. and African countries?

DEPUTY SECRETARY GRAVES:  Well, first off, thank you for those questions.  But the – it is an unbelievable opportunity that the countries of the continent have been able to come together to form the largest free trade area in the world.  It’s going to create greater opportunities for African businesses to grow and to develop into the major global trading companies that we all believe are in Africa’s future.  

We know that we need to do more to find ways to lift up our relationship.  It’s why we’ve been having direct conversations with Secretary General Mene.  It’s – we think that once the AfCFTA is fully negotiated and implemented, it’ll eliminate most tariffs and non-tariff barriers across Africa.  It’s going to streamline access for services between African countries.  That’s important because it makes the continent a much more attractive market for the U.S., because it creates a much more level playing field.  It provides harmonization of rules and allows it – allows American businesses to operate more consistently across the continent.

And so what I expect is going to occur over the course of the coming weeks and months and years is that American businesses are going to find as a result of the free trade area that the continent is going to be the type of place that is increasingly competitive with other global markets, and will be a very attractive market, competitive with a whole range of other parts of the world.

So we are very excited about it.  It’s why I and so many others across – leaders across the administration have been having these conversations with the secretary general, to find ways that we can use this to support a growing trade between the U.S. and countries all across Africa.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  So next I’d like to go to a submitted question from Fred Oluoch of Nation Media Group in Kenya:  “Can you expand on the U.S. position that China and Russia investing billions of dollars into Africa are meant to destabilize the continent?”

DEPUTY SECRETARY GRAVES:  Absolutely.  What we are focused on today – and we’re going to continue to focus on this – is making sure that African countries, African businesses, and especially the African people have choices.  That’s what this is all about, making sure that Africans have good choices, that this isn’t just a unitary set of options for them.  We believe that American businesses are the partners of choice for African countries.  We believe that African countries offer huge opportunities for U.S. businesses.  And so part of what we’re trying to do with this leadership summit and the ongoing work that we’re doing on the continent, in countries all across the continent, is to make it easier for U.S. businesses to show up.  

Because again, if the African countries and African businesses don’t have choices, then it could be problematic.  They may end up having to take deals that they’d rather not.  And we’ve heard consistently from leaders all across the continent over the course of the last few days that they want to partner with the U.S., that African businesses want to engage with U.S. businesses.  But they need to have that connection, we need to provide those opportunities, we need to make sure that we’re doing everything in our power, all of the U.S. agencies that support trade and investment, that we’re making it easier for business here in the U.S. to get to Africa, to see the opportunities, and to make those connections real.

So we believe that the U.S. businesses are going to the partners of choice, and we just want to make sure that they – that, again, Africans have choices.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Thank you.  I’d like to go to a live question in the Q&A from Ruud Elmendorp of the Dutch Telegraaf newspaper.  He’s in Nairobi.  “Could you elaborate on Nigeria and Rwanda’s role in Artemis?”

DEPUTY SECRETARY GRAVES:  Well, the Artemis Accords lays out a framework of basically guardrails on how space should be utilized by peace-loving nations across the globe.  It’s basically a framework to ensure that we operate in space in appropriate manners, that it provides the type of international, as I said, guardrails for space along the lines of what we’ve seen in other venues.  So you can imagine agreements in the use of international waters and the like.  It’s a means of supporting commercial engagement, commercial space industry development; gives the commercial industry rules of the road, essentially, on how they can use space; and importantly, it commits countries, including Nigeria and Rwanda, to operate in space in a safe manner, in a way that allows for the free and peaceful use of space.  And I think it will help Rwanda and Nigeria to be seen as very viable commercial industry partners, where it puts them on the map, so to speak, for the commercial space industry, who are looking to those countries that have committed to rules of the road and consistency in approaches as they look to places to continue their development of the space industry.  

MODERATOR:  All right.  So next, we have a couple of questions from journalists about specific countries.  So for example, we had one submitted question about what sort of deals could we expect with Ghana.  Then there’s a question about what sort of deals could we expect for Morocco.  So just in general, I think, on the scale of responding to concerns about individual countries and what individual countries can expect, can you speak to that?  

DEPUTY SECRETARY GRAVES:  Absolutely.  We are – I am so pleased that we have here at the Commerce Department so many of our foreign commercial service team members, commercial officers, who are helping to support direct engagement between U.S. companies and companies in countries like Ghana and Morocco.  I saw when I was in Ghana earlier this year the real opportunities that come as a direct result of the U.S. Government working with the governments of these countries, including Ghana, to sort of smooth over the pathway to doing deals.  

As a result of my trip to Ghana, we saw a number of deals occur, and I expect that coming out of the summit, including what we did in the deal room, you’re going to see a number of new opportunities between the U.S. and many countries.  I’ll note that the President spent a lot of time with our Moroccan counterparts.  They happened to be watching the soccer – the football match yesterday, and unfortunately for Morocco it went the wrong way, but it was a fantastic showing by Morocco.  They are – they’ve put themselves into the elite of the elite.

But part of that engagement is also between the President of the United States and leaders of countries like Morocco to create more opportunities, to help make it easier for businesses, to raise issues where there may be challenges on the business-enabling environment, challenges around the regulatory environment.  And that’s what we can do to make it easier, but I expect that there will be a large number of additional deals.   

And I’ll tell you this.  The other thing that we’re doing – we had this virtual deal room, not just the in-person deal room.  A number of U.S. companies from all across the country are now seeing countries like Ghana and Morocco in a new light.  They actually now understand, oh, it is so much easier to do business on the continent than we had thought before.  So I expect that there will be more U.S. investment; there’ll be more bilateral trade and also opportunities for Ghanaians and Moroccans and so many others to look at the U.S. as a good place to do business.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Well, I think we’re just about out of time here.  We have a couple more minutes before we have to let Deputy Secretary Graves go.  Mr. Deputy Secretary, do you have any final thoughts, any final observations you’d like to share with us? 

DEPUTY SECRETARY GRAVES:  Well, I’d just say that the work that we’re trying to do is really focused on, as I said before, creating meaningful, long-term partnerships between the U.S. and African countries.  And this is meeting the countries as partners, focusing on things like digital economy, including the President’s digital initiative with Africa.  It’s including the health sector, including agriculture, including clean energy and clean technology.  It’s supporting value-added production, so it’s not just extraction of the minerals, the resources that we know Africa has, but also the value add of processing those critical minerals, those resources, so that Africans are expanding and growing their economies all across the continent.

And it’s also thinking about things that we can do together to meet the challenges facing the world, like climate change, like the impact of things like floods and fires and drought.  This is where the U.S. is – can be a great partner, and we’re going to continue to work with African countries to deliver our support, our data and resources, so that Africans can make good investment decisions for their countries, so that we bring down risk, and that the U.S. and African countries come even closer together.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Fantastic.  Thank you so much for your time this morning, Deputy Secretary Graves.  Thank you to our participants for your attention and your interest in the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit and the Africa Business Forum, which took place yesterday.  So we’ll bring it to a close.  If you have any questions about today’s briefing, you may contact the Africa Regional Media Hub at  And as always, a transcript will be made available to you.  

So thank you very much, and let’s bring it to a close.  Good luck with the rest of the summit.  


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U.S. Department of State

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