Manager, U.S.-Africa Business Center, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
September 08, 2023
Africa is a vast continent of dazzling diversity, home to 54 sovereign nations and 1.3 billion inhabitants—a number that will double by 2050. Given Africa’s array of economic, cultural, and political environments, American businesses entering African markets must be ready for meticulous, in-depth preparation.
It's said, however, that even the longest journeys commence with a single step. One year ago, in September 2022, the U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-Africa Business Center launched a major initiative to help U.S. businesses take that first step with “Advance with Africa.”
Advance with Africa is a multi-year campaign encompassing roadshows, webinars, and community engagements connecting U.S. enterprises to African markets while dispelling misconceptions about investing in Africa, strengthening U.S.-Africa commercial ties, and promoting economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic.
Advance with Africa’s launch last September fittingly coincided with Africa Diaspora Heritage Month, as the campaign is focused on engaging U.S. cities with significant African diaspora and minority business communities and those with existing business linkages with Africa.
In its first year, the initiative has hosted six events nationwide, collectively bringing together thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from the United States and Africa for knowledge sharing and exploring business opportunities. Participants learned not only from each other but also from speakers and panelists that included the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, ambassadors from African nations, as well as Congressional and mayoral offices, business executives, and even an NFL cornerback, all united by their shared passion for promoting Africa’s economic advantages. Our partners have included the U.S. Chamber’s own Equality of Opportunity Initiative, local chambers of commerce, the U.S. government's “Prosper Africa” initiative, the National Association of District Export Councils, and Absa Bank, which uses its platform as one of Africa's largest financial institutions to champion Advance with Africa and share assessments of Africa’s business future.
Advance with Africa’s commitment to connecting businesses globally, while enriching communities locally has taken the program across the country. A year ago, in a packed conference room at the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs, a hub for Black-owned businesses, Atlantans embraced the call to Advance with Africa at the program’s first-ever event. At the Atlanta roadshow, business owners learned what economic opportunities exist in Africa and how the federal government, through Prosper Africa, can help entrepreneurs achieve their goals on the continent.
In a webinar with the National Association of District Export Councils, the U.S. Chamber took the conversation further by educating business owners experienced in foreign trade, though unfamiliar with African markets, and sharing how they can achieve robust and profitable growth in a dynamic region.
AWA also received a warm welcome in Houston, Texas, Africa's second-largest U.S. urban trade partner. The roadshow was attended by hundreds, ranging from small business owners to Congressional staff. It included vital conversations on financing led by Absa Bank and the Export–Import Bank of the United States.
Those are just snapshots from Advance with Africa’s banner first year, which underscores how U.S. business interest in the vast, rapidly growing, urbanizing, and industrializing continent is quickly growing. The Chamber is excited to build on the momentum of Advance with Africa’s inaugural year, with the roadshow’s next destinations to be announced this fall. And underlining Advance with Africa’s key theme that the time is now to embrace a new narrative around Africa’s economic environment—in 2024, the U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-Africa Business Center will bring a group of small businesses to Africa for the first official Advance with Africa Delegation.
This opportunity will be more than a business trip, but an experience, immersing American entrepreneurs in the energy and hope of Africa’s business landscape, introducing executives to potential partners, and allowing them to learn firsthand how to create conditions for business success in Africa. The next chapter of Advance with Africa promises to be even more impactful than the first. We’re excited to continue to be a trusted partner in empowering America’s small- and medium-sized enterprises to tap into the benefits of African business. As U.S. Chamber President and CEO Suzanne Clark said at last December’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, "Advance with Africa is helping to fuel a transformation that ensures prosperity and widespread growth for Americans and Africans alike. We’re proud of the early progress but we’re more excited about what’s to come.”