MODERATOR: Good afternoon to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub. I would like to welcome our participants from across the continent and thank all of you for taking part in this discussion. Today we are very pleased to be joined by Scott Nathan, CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, or DFC, and head of the U.S. delegation to the U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Botswana. Mr. Nathan will discuss the Biden-Harris administration’s continued commitment to partnering with African countries, including the $55 billion the United States Government has invested and intends to invest over the next three years, and about DFC’s current portfolio of more than $11 billion on the continent. Mr. Nathan is speaking to us from the U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Gaborone, Botswana.
We will begin today’s call with opening remarks from Mr. Nathan, then we will turn to your questions. We will try to get to as many of them as we can during the time that we have.
As a reminder, today’s briefing is on the record. And with that, I will turn it over to the CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, Scott Nathan, for his opening remarks.
MR NATHAN: Well, thanks so much, Tiffany. It’s great to be here in the hub and with all of you. You’re right, I am here at the U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Botswana. It has been a very busy day so far. This is a great opportunity to connect with leaders from across Africa in both governments and especially business. We’re here to talk about investment. As the CEO of the Development Finance Corporation, which is the United States Government’s development finance institution, I’m proud to lead the U.S. Government’s delegation to this summit. And I think it indicates how important access to capital and investment is to this relationship between the nations of Africa and the United States – investment, partnership, working together to promote economic growth and the private sector at the core of this relationship. And that’s what we’re focused on.
We’re looking to deepen and expand our partnership, to amplify African voices, and support the empowerment of Africans. During the second U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in December of last year, President Biden announced that his administration is invested and plans to provide, working with Congress, $55 billion over the next three years to North and Sub-Saharan Africa, and this funding includes new programs announced by the President that relate to digital transformation, democratic and political transitions, partnerships for African security. It also includes continuing work on programs that exist that have been so effective, like Prosper Africa, Power Africa, Feed the Future, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, which has done so much good across the continent, and the Adaptation Fund.
So six months after the conclusion of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the United States through a whole-of-government effort is beginning to deliver on our commitments. We’ve increased the amount of deals that were committed through the business forum at that event. We’ve increased it by half a billion dollars, and that work is ongoing. My institution ourselves, we’ve made over $100 billion of investments, and we have a billion dollars – a hundred million dollars of investments and we have a billion dollars of deals in our pipeline that we are very confident are soon to get through our process and will be announced in the coming weeks and months.
I’m going to leave it there because I want to hear your questions, but bottom line is for this summit, we’re looking to continue the important relationships that were amplified and expanded at the December summit, and what really matters is what happened next – taking the contacts, the relationships that are developed here and turning them into concrete action, into deals that make a difference for countries, for the African people, and strengthen our partnership.
So thanks, Tiffany, for the opportunity. I look forward to your questions.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. Nathan. We will now go to the question-and-answer portion of today’s call. We ask that you limit yourself to one question related to the topic of today’s briefing: the Biden-Harris administration’s continued commitment to partnering with African countries and the activities of the U.S. delegation at the U.S.-Africa Business Summit.
Our first question was sent in advance from Ms. Milliscent Nnwoka of Channels TV, Nigeria. She asks: “With the efforts of the U.S. in Africa through investment, what sectors are top investment priorities for the DFC?”
MR NATHAN: Well, for our institution we have five primary priorities: supporting high-quality infrastructure development; promoting sustainable and responsible, reliable access to energy; promoting agriculture and food security through business; working to create resilient health care systems through private opportunities to support health care; and finally, support for small and medium enterprises. This is the engine of growth in most economies, and is key in Africa, supporting entrepreneurship and employment through small business.
Of course, we’re open to other opportunities to support the private sector, whether that’s in housing or education or elsewhere. But these five priorities are our key.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question was also sent ahead of time, my Mr. Dieudo Mubenga of B One Radio, Democratic Republic of Congo. He asks: “Are there any updates on the batteries MOU between DRC-Zambia which was signed during the African – U.S.-African Leaders Summit in Washington this summer? What are the requirements for the implementation of manufacturers, and what should the states involved do to support implementation of such agreements?”
MR NATHAN: Well, thanks for the question. I mean, at the summit we welcomed the signing of the memorandum of understanding between DRC and Zambia. This was critical. The goals of the MOU are really closely aligned with DFC’s approach to investment in critical minerals. And we’re working with other parts of the U.S. Government to coordinate our efforts to support this agreement. DFC is actively pursuing opportunities in support of the MOU. One notable project announced by President Biden at the most recent G7 meeting in Japan is DFC’s interest in supporting the development of a railway in the Lobito corridor, which will connect the copper belt in DRC and Zambia through Angola to global markets. This kind of infrastructure, the enabling environment, is critical for the development of critical minerals and, as importantly, the capture of value locally in the countries where these resources are based.
This is something the United States really supports. It’s critical, from our point of view, that nations be able to get the benefit, get the value that exists from the resources that they control and own. This is also good for the world. These materials are incredibly important for the development of the 21st century economy, for the energy transition and transformation. And no country should monopolize the processing or value add in these materials. It’s important to diversify supply chains globally, and adding local value is a key to that.
So I’ll leave it there, but this is an important area of development.
MODERATOR: Our next question comes from Brooks Spector of the Daily Maverick in Johannesburg. And he asks: “How much does the challenge of rapidly growing Chinese investment and lending in Africa figure into the decisions being made by your organization and related institutions?”
MR NATHAN: Well, the Development Finance Corporation and the U.S. Government is focused on making development impact, creating sustainable sources of capital so that we have expanded private sector and economic growth that doesn’t rely on grant aid or loans at a sovereign level, but instead is about a robust private sector which helps economic growth and returns value to countries.
This is really what we’re focused on. We’re not focused on reacting to any particular country or strategy. This is our interest. We see it in our strategic interest to support this kind of robust, inclusive prosperity and financial development. We’re going to do it in a high-standard way that’s respectful for local conditions, local customs, that takes into account the impact on the environment, social impact that creates local employment, and of course respects labor standards.
This is a critical commitment of the DFC and of the U.S. Government. We work with our allies through our Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment with our allies to try to mobilize more private capital and more financial support to the private sector to help this kind of development.
MODERATOR: Great. Our next question is live from Botho Cale Mothudi. He’s with the BCM Media and Communications here in Botswana. Can you open the line, please? Hello? Is the line open?
QUESTION: It is. Am I audible?
MR NATHAN: Yes. Now you are.
QUESTION: All right. Well, the first question, actually, was speaking to the critical sectors that you – the United States would be as important for advancing economic opportunity access within the African continent. But of course you’ve already addressed that.
Now, the next part of a question was: Are there priority countries that you will be dealing with when you look at the economic advancement for Africa?
MR NATHAN: We’re looking for opportunities and for good deals. We’re active in, currently, I believe, 38 countries in Africa. So we’re not focused on one particular country or another. DFC has capacity. We have a team based in Africa. We have strong relationships with our embassies and USAID missions. And we’re making great efforts to drum up potential deal flow and build relationships to help us be active in many countries across the continent.
So let’s see if we can find more deals, do good transactions that help support economic growth and inclusive prosperity across the whole continent.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go live to Jeff Hill, Washington Times. Jeff, can you ask your question? Jeff, you need to unmute yourself. Thank you. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Hello, can you hear me?
MR NATHAN: There, now I can –
QUESTION: Can you hear me?
MR NATHAN: Yeah, now I can.
QUESTION: Oh, great. Excellent. Mr. Nathan, thanks for making this time and thanks to the media hub. These relations that the U.S. has with the region are country-to-country and we understand that. But there are crucial elections coming up over the next 18 months in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana. Are the links strong enough to navigate any political change, particularly in robust democracies like Botswana and South Africa? Do you see any risks to investors in the event of political change – of democratic change in South Africa and in your host country of Botswana?
MR NATHAN: Well, speaking maybe a little more generally, the investing environment is an important factor in evaluating the commercial viability and the underlying credit risk in any deal. That could bear on regulations. That could bear on social cohesion and political stability. This is always a factor. But for the Development Finance Corporation, the deals we look at first and foremost start with the opportunity at the private level. While it’s important for us to have a relationship with host governments and we want to be guided by the interests and conditions in a country, ultimately for us to do anything it really is about the individual deal – the companies, the private projects, that make a difference.
We’re not lending at a sovereign level. We’re not taking sovereign risk in that way. We’re not looking to burden countries with additional debt. We’re evaluating individual private sector opportunities. Of course the United States Government is committed to promoting democracy, promoting transparency and openness, the rule of law. These are critical components, and we hope our partners will continue on that path.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We unfortunately, due to the schedule here on the ground, had to start a bit late. We have time for one more question, and we’d like to take that live from Peter Fabricius in Cape Town. Can you open the line, please?
QUESTION: Hi, can you hear me?
MR NATHAN: Yes.
MODERATOR: Yes, we can.
QUESTION: Yeah, hi, thanks Mr. Nathan for your very good, interesting briefing. I just wanted to ask you about AGOA. It’s up for renewal in two years’ time, and there are questions about the participation of my country, South Africa, and so on. Could you give me some sense, if you would, about the possibilities of AGOA being extended when it comes up for renewal, and also the possibilities of individual countries like South Africa continuing to participate? Thanks.
MR NATHAN: Thanks. Trade and investment is incredibly important. What I’m focused on is the investment side. I’m not really a political analyst or prognosticator so I can’t really give you a view on what’s going to happen with AGOA. That’s something that will have to be worked through by the administration and certainly Congress, which ultimately has the authority there. It does expire, I believe, at the end of September in 2025, but I don’t really have any strong insight into the probabilities there. So maybe we should take one more question if that’s possible?
MODERATOR: Yes, we have a question in the Q&A from Lizelle Nell (ph) of, let’s see, the Newsflash magazine in Namibia. It says: “What private sector development in Botswana, especially related to the mining, remain cognizant of the fragile environmental water ecosystems?” I think that is in – perhaps in your area in terms of investment.
MR NATHAN: Yeah, sure. Well, I mean, I – I should first say, I hope so. For us at the Development Financing – Development Finance Corporation, regardless of where we’re looking, we apply the IFC performance standards. We do deep work on environmental, social, governance, labor, local laws and conditions transparency, anti-corruption. These are things that are important.
Our belief is that projects that meet a high quality, high standard level serve the interest of the people and the communities where these projects and companies operate, and ultimately reflect the values that the United States has, and speaks to the reason why we’re involved in the first place. We’re looking to make development impact to help countries grow in a sustainable and inclusive way. That’s in the foreign policy and strategic interests of the United States. Access to private capital, from our viewpoint, in this high standard, high quality way ultimately is to the long-term benefit of our partners and to ourselves and our people, and that’s why we do it.
MODERATOR: Fantastic. Thank you so much. And that is all the time we have today. Did you have any closing remarks or must you run?
MR NATHAN: Well, I mean, I look forward to getting back to the summit and being able to do the work that we’re all here to do, which is to focus on supporting business in Africa, the ties between the United States and the nations of Africa, so that we can ultimately do well through supporting companies in the private sector, do well for the people of Africa. That’s what it’s all about. It’s been great to have an opportunity to speak to you all. Thanks so much.
MODERATOR: Thank you. And that concludes today’s briefing. I would like to thank Scott Nathan, CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation and head of the U.S. delegation to the U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Botswana, for speaking to us today, and to all of you, our journalists, for participating.
If you have any questions about today’s briefing, you may contact the Africa Regional Media Hub at email@example.com. Thank you.
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