Witney Schneidman

Witney Schneidman

Senior International Advisor for Africa

Witney Schneidman has nearly 40 years of experience working across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Drawing on his experience in the State Department, the World Bank, think tanks and his own consulting practice, Dr. Schneidman, a non-lawyer, has advised energy, technology, consumer and health companies, among others, on projects in more than 30 African countries. He has also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs, and on the Africa advisory committees in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and at the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

Dr. Schneidman provides strategic advice on the varied political, economic, social and regulatory issues that are critical to companies’ success in Africa. This includes issues related to Corporate Social Responsibility, compliance, market entry and risk mitigation. He played a leading role in the passage and recent reauthorization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act and was a delegate to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit co-hosted by President Obama during his visit to Kenya.

Dr. Schneidman chairs Covington’s Africa Practice Group and is a senior member of the firm’s Public Policy Practice Group, the International Strategy Group and the International Trade and Finance Group.

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It’s Time to Help Africa Fight the Virus

If COVID-19 spreads across Africa, it would not only be a human catastrophe for the continent, but one that threatens the Northern Hemisphere with future outbreaks and further human and economic losses. What is true in the United States, where people in poor and minority neighborhoods are dying in disproportionate numbers, is true for the … Continue Reading

South Africa’s Economic Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic (Part III)

As part of his ongoing response to the COVID-19, President Ramaphosa announced on April 21 that the South African Government was launching a further R500 billion (approximately $26.3 billion) social and economic stimulus package – the biggest ever once-off stimulus injection in South African history. The President described this giant stimulus as constituting the second … Continue Reading

South Africa’s Economic Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic (Part II)

On 6 April, 2020, we published an article outlining South Africa’s initial economic response in support of its already ailing economy against the adverse economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.  Two weeks have passed since we first published that article, and we think it is prudent to provide this follow-up, outlining the latest developments in … Continue Reading

Audio and Key Takeaways Re: Covington’s Ability to Help Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa

As a complement to our March 26, 2020 blog “Covington’s Ability to Help Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa,” you may access the audio of our briefing call here. Key takeaways from the briefing can be accessed here. With African governments increasingly taking strong actions to impede the spread of the COVID-19 virus, including … Continue Reading

Covington’s Ability to Help Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa

With African governments increasingly taking strong actions to impede the spread of the COVID-19 virus – including in a number of jurisdictions, imposing full lockdowns – we are able to provide assistance to our clients, financial institutions, developmental finance organizations, companies and organizations on the continent. We are available to get on a call at … Continue Reading

Coronavirus: Potential Implications for Africa

The Coronavirus (hereinafter “COVID-19”) is upending lives around the world—equally in developed and developing countries. Some are already affected by the deadly impact of COVID-19 (e.g. China, Italy, and France), while others’ lives have been altered due to efforts taken to “flatten the curve,” to ensure hospital systems are not overrun with patients in need … Continue Reading

Top Issues to Watch in Africa in 2020

Commencement of the AfCFTA. The landmark African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is slated to go into force on July 1, 2020. When fully implemented, the trade agreement will eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers, and substantially increase intra-regional trade to volumes worth over $3.3 trillion. Twenty-nine countries have deposited their instruments of ratification, and Eritrea … Continue Reading

It’s Time for AGOA 2.0

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is set to expire in 2025. That may be the distant future for some but given the time required to pass trade legislation in the U.S. Congress, it’s the functional equivalent of tomorrow’s mid-day meal. Preparation for the post-AGOA trade relationship between the U.S. and Africa needs to … Continue Reading

Can the U.S. and Africa Prosper Together?

Prosper Africa, the core of the Trump administration’s policy, is a state of mind. This is not a criticism. The program is an ambitious effort to get every American political appointee, diplomat, and civil servant engaged on African issues to be on the look-out for commercial opportunities for American businesses and to help American companies … Continue Reading

Ethiopia: Africa’s Next Powerhouse?

Ethiopia’s prime minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed—the youngest African leader at 42 years old—has initiated a series of unprecedented economic and political reforms in his first 12 months in office. The core challenge that he faces is moving the economy from state-led to market-based growth while overseeing far-reaching political reforms. Success is far from guaranteed but his … Continue Reading

Tips for Commercial Success in Africa

With an emerging middle class of 400 million people, 10 of the fastest growing economies globally, and the most youthful population of any region, Africa is a continent of significant opportunity. There are also risks, as there are anywhere, including the challenge of combatting corruption, navigating opaque regulations and developing a skilled workforce. Below are … Continue Reading

Top Ten Issues to Watch in Africa in 2019

Africa’s Growth Prospects. Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow at 3.8 percent in 2019, which is a significant improvement over last year’s regional growth rate of 2.6 percent. Excluding the continent’s largest economies (Angola, Nigeria and South Africa), which are growing collectively at an average of 2.5 percent, the aggregate growth rate … Continue Reading

The Trump administration’s Africa strategy: Primacy or partnership?

Last week, the Trump administration launched an Africa policy that seeks both primacy and partnership on the continent. The administration’s efforts at partnership, especially as it relates to promoting U.S. business on the continent, are likely to be far more lasting and consequential. Ambassador John Bolton set the tone for the administration in a speech … Continue Reading

Congress takes the lead on U.S.-Africa Policy

While the nation has been transfixed by the confirmation hearings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh for a seat on the Supreme Court, Congress passed significant legislation on Africa that has attracted virtually no attention. On October 3, the Senate passed the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act, better known as the Build Act. President … Continue Reading

Smart Power: Investing in Youth Leadership and Development

“So, young people…my message to you is simple, keep believing, keep marching, keep building, keep raising your voice. Every generation has the opportunity to remake the world.” -President Barack Obama, 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, South Africa   Of the many statistics that define Africa’s complexity, this may be the most important one: With 200 … Continue Reading

The 2018 AGOA Forum: A turning point for US-Africa commercial relations?

The 2018 AGOA Forum—named for the African Growth and Opportunity Act passed in 2000 and extended three years ago to 2025—could be a turning point in U.S.-African commercial relations. AGOA abolished import duties on more than 1,800 products manufactured in eligible countries sub-Saharan Africa (those with established or making continuous progress with market-based economy, rule of … Continue Reading

Competing in Africa: China, the European Union, and the United States

Given recent developments in the global economy, especially Brexit and the Trump administration’s “America First” policy, it is worth assessing how Africa’s three largest commercial partners—China, the European Union, and the United States—are likely to impact the region in the near future as it relates to trade and investment trends. The China-in-Africa story may be … Continue Reading

Ten Key Issues to Watch in Africa in 2018

In this blog, Covington’s Africa practice  highlights ten key issues to watch in Africa in 2018. U.S. Policy: The derogatory remarks that President Trump made about Africans and Haitians, which he denies having said, create a negative image for the U.S. across the region as the year begins. Nevertheless, the administration will push forward on … Continue Reading

Ramaphosa’s Victory: Progress or Paralysis?

The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as president of the African National Congress (ANC), and now the leading contender to become South Africa’s next president, was hailed as a “humbling rebuke” of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and a stark rejection of his policies, which have led to anemic economic growth, widespread corruption, and rising frustration in one … Continue Reading

Post-AGOA: Moving to a Reciprocal US-Africa Trade Arrangement

  The global trade environment is rapidly changing and already affecting the U.S.-Africa trade relationship. Indeed, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was not intended to be permanent. The program was designed as a stepping stone to a more mature trade relationship between the U.S. and the continent. AGOA’s expiration date in 2025 may … Continue Reading

Ross Outlines Trump’s Commercial Policy Toward Africa

Last week in a speech to the U.S.-Africa Business Summit sponsored by the Corporate Council on Africa, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross signaled that there would be continuity in U.S. commercial policy to Africa. Ross struck a positive tone and noted that President Trump described Africa as a “place of opportunity” at the May G-7 … Continue Reading

A note from the World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban

Earlier this month, more than 1,000 leaders from business, government, and civil society participated in the World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban in early May with the theme, “Achieving Inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership.” This note highlights several conversations relevant to the forum’s theme. The Leadership Challenge The challenge of responsible leadership … Continue Reading
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