Manager, U.S.-Africa Business Center, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
April 18, 2023
At a bustling iftar, the fast-breaking meal during Ramadan, the sun set over Dar es Salaam and on the U.S. Chamber’s first Africa trade mission of 2023.
The business delegation, led by the U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-Africa Business Center, was comprised of more than 30 private-sector executives who met with U.S. and African public- and private-sector leaders and participated in roundtable discussions facilitated by the U.S. Chamber in Kenya and Tanzania. This marked more than a routine trade mission, but rather a continuation of promises made by the U.S. business community during a consequential year of African engagement that culminated last December at the U.S. Chamber's U.S. Africa Business Forum.
The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit and the Business Forum signified an important expansion of U.S.-Africa economic relations, and demonstrated that the U.S. is ready to be meaningfully counted among Africa’s allies. Enthusiasm on the ground in Kenya and Tanzania—two countries at the heart of Africa's vibrant startup ecosystem—was palpable. Over 1,200 representatives from more than 300 international companies rubbed shoulders at the third annual AmCham Business Summit in Nairobi, hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Kenya with support from the U.S. Chamber and the AmChams from Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. The Summit highlighted Kenya’s vast investment potential for U.S. companies, the role of East Africa as a thriving innovation hub, the opportunity that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) trade bloc will create of American investors in Kenya and across the continent. Both U.S. and African governments were keen to demonstrate that they are actively working to reduce trade barriers, address infrastructure challenges, and are welcoming of market-opening reforms like those showcased by U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman in her opening keynote and Kenyan President William Ruto in his closing address.
In Kenya, the U.S. Africa Business Center also met with Kenyan President William Ruto’s Council of Economic Advisors and other key Kenyan government officials, business leaders and counterparts from the Kenyan private sector, and with top U.S. and Kenyan economic officials before the opening round of bilateral negotiations to establish a U.S.-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP). As evidenced by agreements such as STIP, there is a concerted effort from both sides to create a more investment-enabling environment in infrastructure and adjacent sectors, like tech, agriculture, energy, creative economy, and manufacturing.
In Tanzania, following Vice President Kamala Harris’ historic visit to the nation, the U.S. Chamber delegation met with Tanzanian and U.S. government officials to fulfill a key commitment in the action plan established by the U.S. Chamber and the Tanzania Trade Development Authority (TanTrade) to build business linkages between the United States and Tanzania. As part of President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s first official visit to Washington in April 2022, she witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding signing between the U.S. Chamber and TanTrade to grow the U.S.-Tanzania commercial partnership through several activities including a U.S. Chamber-led business delegation to Dar es Salaam. During the U.S.-Tanzania Trade and Investment Roundtable held during the trade mission, government leaders including Tanzanian Ambassador Elsie Kanza, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce Camille Richardson, and Deputy Permanent Secretary of Finance Lawrence Mafuru identified opportunities for increasing business engagement, committed to work with industry to expand the commercial partnership and make their leaders proud.
As the U.S. business community has started to appreciate, East Africa—the birthplace of mobile money and digital payments— is home to some of the most promising trade partners on the African continent. In addition to distinguishing itself as one of the world’s burgeoning tech hubs, the region is home to diverse, dynamic economies with significant potential across key industries. Already a leader in world exports of tea and coffee, the region is increasing the diversity of its agricultural exports, broadening its manufacturing might, expanding its investments in health, and leading the way in renewable energy development. Only days ago, Kenya launched its first operational satellite into orbit, designed and developed by a team of Kenyan researchers to provide agricultural and environmental data. And at the AmCham Business Summit, Kenyan President Ruto celebrated that Moderna finalized its deal to set up a $500 million mRNA vaccine facility in Nairobi.
The U.S. Chamber is committed to remaining a steadfast partner to both the U.S. business community and the East Africa region, and to furthering efforts from both sides to create mutually beneficial prosperity through investment and two-way trade. The U.S. Chamber stands ready to be an engaged advocate urging East African governments to continue harmonizing policies and regulations and advancing reforms conducive to attracting investment and bolstering trade—and is confident that our business delegation to the region was but the first of many.