Witney Schneidman

Witney Schneidman

Senior International Advisor for Africa

Witney Schneidman is a senior international advisor for Africa.  Dr. Schneidman, a non-lawyer, has a deep understanding of many of the major African countries, as well as uniquely valuable insight into the recurrent challenges and opportunities across the continent.  He provides strategic advice on the varied political, economic, social and regulatory issues that are critical to companies’ success in Africa.  Dr. Schneidman’s work focuses on US-African relations, trade and investment in Sub-Saharan Africa, and issues related to economic growth and regional integration on the continent.

Previously, Dr. Schneidman was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.  He played a key role in ensuring the passage and implementation of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, and the establishment of the U.S.-SADC Forum, the U.S.-Angola Bilateral Consultative Commission and the U.S. Nigeria Joint Economic Partnership Committee.

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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

Covington Opens a New Office in Johannesburg, Expanding the Project Finance Team

Covington will significantly expand its Project Development and Finance practice with the addition of Ben Donovan, Agnieszka Klich, Richard Keenan and David Miles, and the firm’s Middle East regional capabilities in corporate and dispute resolution matters with the addition of Jack Greenwald. With these additions, the firm will also open offices in Dubai and Johannesburg. … Continue Reading

Continued Growth in Covington’s Africa Initiative

Covington’s Africa initiative has unparalleled experience working with companies across a variety of sectors, helping them navigate the risks of Africa and achieve their business objectives on the continent. Over the past several months, we have continued to bolster our capabilities by adding to our team of lawyers and advisors: Jonathan Berman: Mr. Berman, a … Continue Reading

Trump and Africa: Imagining a Positive Legacy

The contours of Trump’s Africa policy are emerging, although key appointments, such as the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, have yet to be made. On February 13, President Trump had telephone conversations with President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa—his first with leaders from sub-Saharan Africa. The calls, … Continue Reading

United States Suspends Sudan Sanctions

In response to “positive actions” taken by the Government of Sudan over the past six months, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) announced today an amendment to the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations (“SSR,” 31 C.F.R. Part 538) that effectively suspends virtually all of the U.S. sanctions against Sudan by authorizing … Continue Reading

Ghana’s New President: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Nana Akufo-Addo, the 72-year-old leader of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), was elected Ghana’s president on December 9 by a margin of 1 million votes, affirming the country’s status as a leading democracy on the continent. The peaceful election supports the remarks of former assistant secretary of state for African affairs and election observer, Ambassador … Continue Reading

Donald Trump and Africa

For Africa, at stake in this election of Donald Trump is the strong bipartisan consensus in Congress that has been the cornerstone of U.S. policy toward the continent for the last three administrations. This consensus, supported by Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, was predicated on the notion that Africa has opportunities worth U.S. attention and … Continue Reading

The US-Africa Business Forum: Investing in Solar Energy

Next week, the Second U.S.-Africa Business Forum will be taking place on the occasion of the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly. The Forum will focus in particular on several sectors that are important to African economies and offer trade and investment opportunities on the continent, including infrastructure and energy. This piece explores the theme of  energy as an increasingly attractive … Continue Reading
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