President, U.S.-Africa Business Center, Sr. Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
August 10, 2022
If demographics are destiny, then Africa is on the cusp of being the center of global affairs within a generation. The continent, long on the periphery of U.S. policy, is becoming an increasingly important trade and investment partner as its young population is set to nearly double by 2050 to 2.5 billion. The Biden-Harris Administration clearly understands Africa’s importance, as the White House will host the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit in December—the first state-level gathering of African leaders and a U.S. President since 2014. The U.S. Chamber is excited to be part of this important step towards stronger engagement with Africa through our role in supporting the Africa Business Forum, the Summit’s official private sector business component. But effective engagement with Africa cannot start and end there.
Over the course of this year, the U.S. Chamber is elevating its longstanding policy engagement with the continent to capitalize on Africa’s shifts in business, technology, and domestic and global partnerships to seize opportunities with a critical partner on the verge of a major socioeconomic revolution.
Harnessing the private sector
The opportunity to strengthen U.S.-Africa ties begins as much with heads of state as it does on the American and African Main Streets. On September 6, in Atlanta, Georgia, the U.S. Chamber will officially kick off “Advance with Africa,” a nationwide roadshow and campaign aimed at increasing U.S. businesses’ understanding of commercial opportunities in Africa, transforming the narrative around Africa’s business climate, and dispelling myths—creating new opportunities for American businesses, big and small. At each stop around the country, the roadshow will convene public- and private-sector leaders from the government and business community, in partnership with our local network of Chambers, for discussions, engagements, and panels explaining the opportunities for business to expand Africa’s commercial profile domestically, increase U.S. exports and investment, highlight tools to support new market entrants, and grow commercial opportunities.
Advance with Africa’s particular focus on engaging diaspora communities and minority- and black-owned businesses, which traditionally have lacked strong access to global markets, will help contribute to a transformation that ensures prosperity and equitable growth for Americans and Africans alike. To follow along as the Advance with Africa roadshow kicks off in Atlanta and stops in cities from Washington state to Washington, D.C., be sure to check the Chamber website for livestream links, or Chamber on Demand for exciting video highlights.
Unlocking the power of African innovation
Perhaps it is no surprise that the continent that gave rise to mobile money and digital payments has charted its own unique path to economic growth. Rather, Africa’s services sector, “industries without smokestacks,” has outstripped manufacturing in its role in driving growth, with last year seeing record highs for venture capital investments in Africa’s fintech sector.
On August 15, the U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-Africa Business Center will be selecting the top ten finalists of the Africa Digital Innovation Competition, a yearly competition awarding Africa’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and startups for developing solutions through digital products and services that have a positive impact on African citizens.
Africa’s digital future continues to be bright, and the U.S. Chamber is proud to promote innovative talent across Africa through social impact and digital initiatives that incorporate cutting-edge technologies to formulate solutions and growth. Follow developments with the Africa Digital Innovation competition here.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act, the cornerstone of the U.S.-Africa commercial relationship for over two decades, is nearing its expiry date of 2025, and the U.S. must evaluate its track record and grapple with the legislation’s potential reauthorization now. We also must seriously confront that other countries have significantly increased their trade with Africa, while China has become Africa’s largest trading partner and creditor. Africa’s rise in global influence cannot be ignored. This year offers ample opportunity to deepen the U.S.-Africa relationship, build greater confidence, and promote mutual prosperity with a vitally important part of the world, and the U.S. Chamber is glad to be part of this narrative through not only the U.S.-Africa Leader’s Summit, Advance with Africa, and the Digital Innovation Competition—but also through engaging African leaders during September’s UN General Assembly meetings and the UN Climate Change Conference 2022, to be held in Egypt in November.
U.S. policymakers and business leaders need to seize these opportunities now to ensure the coming decades result in a strategic effort to increase trade volume and value, as well as new business opportunities with the African continent that will benefit African, American, and global citizens alike.
About the authors
Scott Eisner is president of the U.S.-Africa Business Center (USAfBC) at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.