This past week, National Security Advisor Ambassador Susan Rice and Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield provided insights into the upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. To put the event in context, the officials stressed that the Summit is not the sign of a new or renewed relationship with Africa nor a reaction to the continent’s strengthening of its relationship with other trading partners. Instead, the Summit is building on an existing relationship “earned through decades of friendship and investment in one another.”
One of the key objectives to the Summit will be to increase U.S. foreign investment in Africa. The Administration’s commitment to this objective is demonstrated by the full-day U.S.-Africa Business Forum. With an RSVP list of over 300 participants, the Forum will bring together public and private sector leaders to discuss “U.S. private sector engagement in Africa including [in] finance and capital investment; infrastructure; power and energy; agriculture; consumer goods; and information and communication technology.” There will be four panels.
- “Expanding Opportunities: The New Era for Business in Africa.” Although foreign investment in Africa’s economies “will reach a record $80 billion” this year, “significant business and financial opportunities remain untapped.” This session will identify ways to strengthen existing business ties, build new ones, and generally consider the future of U.S.-African partnerships. The panelists will include President and CEO of Dangote Group Aliko Dangote (who is the wealthiest man in Africa) and CEO of General Electric Jeff Immelt (who has described the African region as “essential” to the company).
- “Open Markets: Financing The Africa Of Tomorrow.” Despite recent indications that institutional investors may be losing faith in emerging market opportunities, the financial services sector — especially the private equity community — continues to be interested in the various opportunities in frontier markets in Africa. This session will “uncover ways to reduce real risks, strengthen investor confidence and increase the availability of U.S. capital to U.S. and African firms.” The panelists will include CEO of The Carlyle Group David Rubenstein (whose company closed a $698 million Sub-Saharan African Fund earlier this year) and Joint CEO of Standard Bank Sim Tshabalala (who co-heads Africa’s largest banking group by assets and earnings).
- “Powering Africa: Leading Developments In Infrastructure.” The infrastructure gap in Africa’s energy, transport and digital sectors has proven to be a significant roadblock to its realization of its full economic potential. This session will explore “the public-private partnerships, technological innovations, and financing tools” that are bridging this gap. The panelists will include Chairman, President and CEO of IBM Virginia Rometty (who is overseeing the company’s 10-year, $100 million “Project Lucy” initiative designed to tackle the continent’s greatest challenges).
- “Game Plan: Shaping The Future Of A Fast-Growing Continent.” At the final session, heads of state representing each of the continent’s five regions will discuss “policies that enable economic growth, good governance, strategic investments, intelligent infrastructure, and successful public private partnerships—now and in the years ahead.”
This post can also be found on GlobalPolicyWatch, the firm’s blog on public policy and governmental affairs issues.