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USA-Africa business summit in Marrakech: four questions for the president of the Corporate Council on Africa

This conclave, which is held under the theme “building the future together”, intends to promote business and investment opportunities between the United States and African countries, and foster partnerships in a win-win approach.

In an interview granted to MAP-Washington, the President and CEO of the CCA, Florizelle Liser, discusses the themes on the agenda, the challenges of an edition which takes place after the pandemic in a context of heightened geopolitical tension with significant impact on Africa, as well as highlighting the immense growth potential on the continent, especially in view of the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (Zelcaf), as well as the role of the private sector and public-private partnership for sustainable and inclusive development.

The CCA President paid tribute to Morocco’s role, under the King’s leadership, as a hub for boosting investment, business and trade between the United States and the continent.

“The Summit provides an excellent opportunity to highlight the synergies of economic relations between the United States and Morocco, between Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa as well as the broader economic relations between the United States and Africa”, said Ms. Lizer, the first woman to head the CCA since its inception in 1993 and who brings to this leading private American organization focused on Africa, a solid experience of working with the private sector acquired over the course of her career within the government.

She had previously served, among other things, as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative for Africa since 2003.

1-What is your view on Morocco’s role in strengthening partnership and collaboration with the United States to promote investment, business and trade with Africa?

Let me first of all extend my deepest thanks to the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco for its partnership with the CCA in organizing the 2022 Summit. We are very honored that the Summit is being held under the High Patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI.

The Summit provides an excellent opportunity to highlight the synergies of the economic relationship between the United States and Morocco, Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa, and the broader economic relationship between the United States and Africa. Morocco is the only African Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partner and can lead the way on how to improve U.S.-Africa trade relations with key bilateral partners such as Kenya. as well as through the Zelcaf.

Morocco is also one of the largest investors in sub-Saharan Africa, and we hope that potential partnerships linking U.S. and Moroccan investors in key sectors and projects across the African continent can be sparked by the Summit’s deliberations.

Improving energy and transportation infrastructure, addressing climate change and food security, and digitizing commerce are other promising areas for the United States. Collaboration and investment between African governments and the private sector will be critical to supporting Africa’s sustainable economic growth, creating jobs, and improving prosperity for Africans and Americans.

2- Is there a particularity, in your opinion, for the United States-Africa Business Summit this year, especially since it comes after almost two years of pandemic and in a context of geopolitical tension and risks of economic fragmentation having a significant impact on Africa?

This year’s US-Africa Business Summit comes at an important time as countries and businesses emerge from the health and economic impact of the COVID 19 pandemic, as well as the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. – which have significantly affected global trade and investment patterns for both the United States and its African partners in the public and private sectors. For Africans and at the CCA level, we believe in the promise and great potential of the US-Africa commercial relationship. Africa is not monolithic: its countries represent a diversity of histories, cultures, peoples and languages. Although Africa is complex, its strategic and economic relevance to the United States is clear. By 2025, more than half of Africa’s population will be under 25. By 2050, a quarter of the world’s population will be African and Nigeria will overtake the United States as the third most populous country in the world. That same year, two out of five children will be born in Africa. By 2100, 13 of the world’s 20 largest urban areas will be in Africa. The continent is already one of the fastest growing consumer markets in the world with 1.4 billion people, and its growing middle class and large youth population represent significant export opportunities for goods and American services. A young and productive population not only expands US market opportunities, but also reduces the conditions that foster global insecurity.

In terms of Africa’s economic fragmentation, the adoption and implementation of the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (Zlecaf) will be a game-changer for Africa. The continent is on the way to becoming one of the most important economic regions in the world. When this zone of 54 countries is fully implemented, it will comprise the fifth largest economic bloc in the world, representing a huge source of jobs, consumers, innovation and power to shape the global economy. Beyond removing barriers to intra-African trade, Zelcaf will also advance Africa’s integration into regional and global value chains, including with the United States. The Zone will also potentially incentivize US and other companies to invest in lean manufacturing on the continent in key sectors such as pharmaceuticals and medical products and batteries for electric vehicles.

3- The Summit attracts high-level government officials, including heads of state and business leaders. Could you explain to us the main topics on the agenda and how the Summit can help address pressing issues such as global food shortages, inflation, the persistence of Covid-19 and the effects of global warming which, again, are seriously affecting many African countries?

The theme for the upcoming U.S.-Africa Business Summit will be “Building the Future Together” and will bring together U.S. and African government officials and private sector leaders to engage on a number of critical issues having an impact on the economic relationship between the United States and Africa. We are delighted that there are sessions on building a sustainable food ecosystem, African production of medical products, net zero energy transition, building infrastructure, bridging the digital divide, spreading streaming African examples to global audiences and investing in women and youth, among others. There will also be special sessions on investing in Botswana, Ghana, Morocco and Cameroon, as well as opportunities to pitch to US institutional investors and learn more about US government initiatives like Prosper Africa.

We know from previous CCA Summits that business relationships are being built, deals are materializing, and new U.S.-Africa partnerships are being launched or announced, and we anticipate that this year’s Summit – our first in North Africa – will experience the same success.

4- How can business and investment between the United States and Africa contribute to a sustained recovery in strategic sectors such as health, finance, energy, infrastructure…?

Collaboration between governments and the private sector is essential for Africa and the United States to move forward together around strategic sectors and effectively address a range of global challenges. For example, the U.S. government and the private sector have worked collaboratively with African nations and private sector partners to address the unprecedented challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring more equitable access to vaccines was a key first step that offered companies in sectors ranging from health to ICT a unique opportunity to work together to address Africa’s public health needs. Businesses and governments have had to scramble over the past two years to deal with unexpected and deep shocks to supply chains. There is a great opportunity in 2022 and beyond for companies and governments to develop a set of more resilient and secure supply chains and expand their collaboration to create new markets. CCA hopes, through its United States-Africa Initiative for Health Security and Resilience, to bring together U.S. and African stakeholders from the public and private sectors to discuss ways to collaborate not only to fight COVID, but also to strengthen African health systems. This initiative is a good example of the potential for collaboration to produce concrete results.

There is also a strong need for public-private collaboration between the United States and Africa to strategically address the impact of the war in Ukraine on Africa, its agricultural sector, and its people. The hundreds of millions of African smallholder farmers, who already face challenges in accessing and using the latest and greatest technologies to increase productivity, are now being affected by rising global commodity prices.

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