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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The Young African Leaders Initiative: Soft Power, Smart Power

In 2010, Africa’s leaders gathered at the African Union in Addis Ababa to celebrate 50 years of independence. In Washington, President Barack Obama marked the occasion by hosting a town hall meeting of young African leaders from nearly 50 countries. What looked at the time to be a curious way to mark a significant moment in the … Continue Reading

Six Things to Consider When Doing Business in Sub-Saharan Africa

Over the past two decades, Sub-Saharan Africa has caught the attention of an increasing number of investors who are looking for new and promising opportunities. While growth has slowed in some of the region’s oil exporting countries, the “Africa Rising” narrative continues due to the region’s youthful population of 1 billion people (70 percent are … Continue Reading

Agreement in Principle Announced for an EU Regime on Conflict Minerals

In a so-called “trilogue” meeting on June 16, the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers, and the European Commission reached a “political” agreement on the key elements of a regulation that would implement a due diligence and reporting regime for conflict minerals imported in the EU. It has taken more than three years since the … Continue Reading

Zimbabwe’s Economic Reform Challenges

Ten months ago, on August 26, 2015, Zimbabwe’s 92-year old leader, Robert Mugabe, announced a 10-point plan to revitalize economic growth. Since then, the government has taken steps that signal the intention to transform a moribund economy. But the question is whether a Mugabe-led government can be successful in restoring growth and confidence in a once-promising economy … Continue Reading

Africa, TPP and TTIP: Integration or Isolation?

With the demise of the Doha Development Round at the WTO Ministerial in Nairobi this past December, the multilateral approach to global trade negotiations has largely ended. Given that the number of regional trade agreements has increased from 70 in 1990 to more than 270 today, it appears that it is every region for itself … Continue Reading

An End to the Never-Ending South African Poultry Dispute?

President Obama, on January 11, suspended the application of duty-free treatment to South Africa’s agricultural exports that come into the U.S. under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The suspension will take effect on March 15 if South Africa does not lower tariffs on American poultry products before then. The development represents another twist … Continue Reading

Zimbabwe (Re-)Opens to the West

Zimbabwe has begun to implement economic reforms that, if continued, could help the struggling nation improve the quality of life for the vast majority of its citizens. The nascent reform movement also suggests that government leaders have realized that reliance on China alone will not solve the country’s economic ills. The efforts by Finance Minister, … Continue Reading

The SDGs, Business, and the Development Challenge

The most intriguing characterization of the new Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs), endorsed by world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, came from Amina Mohammed, assistant secretary-general of the United Nations and special advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning. During a panel discussion at the African Leadership Forum on September 24, Ms. Mohammed … Continue Reading

Obama in Kenya: A Report from the Field and a Recap of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit

The nation of Kenya was gripped by a palpable sense of excitement and outsized expectations prior to President Obama’s arrival on Friday, July 24. On the day the president arrived, offices in Nairobi were closed, banks shut down early, and the city’s emptied streets were adorned with American flags and ubiquitous posters conveying the message, … Continue Reading

A Reauthorized U.S. Export-Import Bank is Central to U.S. Commercial Success in Africa

If the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) is not reauthorized, U.S. efforts to deepen commercial ties to Africa will be significantly impeded. Not only would this put U.S. companies at a commercial disadvantage to companies from the European Union, China, Russia, India and elsewhere, it would impact negatively on the contribution that many American companies make … Continue Reading

AGOA Moves Forward: Reviewing Last Week’s Reauthorization in the U.S. Senate

On Thursday of last week and with a vote of 97-1, the U.S. Senate approved the “Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015,” which includes reauthorization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). With this action, the Senate seeks to reaffirm the “centerpiece of trade relations between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa,” as well … Continue Reading

Going to Kenya is an Important Undertaking, Mr. President

Dear Mr. President: Recently, the distinguished Harvard professor, Robert Rotberg, made the argument that your planned visit to Kenya in July is a “dumb” idea. I couldn’t disagree more, and here is why: One of Professor Rotberg’s central points is that your visit will exacerbate ethnic tensions in the country, as your father was a Luo, … Continue Reading

Competing Smarter: Assessing the Report from the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa

One positive outcome of last year’s U.S.-African Leaders Summit was the creation of the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (DBIA), whose purpose is to make recommendations on how to strengthen U.S. commercial engagement on the continent. The council, a group of 15 seasoned business leaders with a genuine understanding of Africa’s business … Continue Reading

Which Way Nigeria?

The historic electoral victory by Muhammadu Buhari, the first time an opposition candidate has defeated an incumbent president in Nigeria, opens a new and unprecedented chapter in the history of Africa’s most populous nation and the continent’s largest economy. As president-elect, Buhari faces significant challenges. Stemming the insurgency in the north waged by Boko Haram, … Continue Reading

2015: A Pivotal Year for Obama’s Africa Legacy

The Priority  The legacy of the Obama administration in Africa is very much a work in progress. Several initiatives  address genuine opportunities and concerns, yet other aspects of the U.S. agenda need sustained attention. The next 12 months will determine whether President Obama will fulfill the tremendous promise of his presidency as it concerns U.S. … Continue Reading

Are Chinese Companies Retooling in Africa?

Chinese companies are adopting new approaches to investing in Africa. These changes, if they become widespread, will boost the positive impact of China on Africa’s development agenda and improve how Chinese companies are perceived on the continent. Conversations in China last month suggest a growing perception that the country’s model of extending low-interest commercial loans … Continue Reading

Africa’s Image and the Ebola Epidemic

During the African Leaders Summit in August, Brookings convened the panel discussion, “Africa’s Image and U.S. Perceptions in the 21st Century,” that included leading journalists and Africanists such as Helene Cooper of The New York Times, William Wallis of the Financial Times, Amadou Mahtar Ba of AllAfrica Global Media, John Prendergast of the Enough Campaign and the recording artist … Continue Reading

The Missing Link in President Obama’s Africa Leaders Summit: Addressing the African, EU, US Conundrum

The Africa Leaders Summit, held in Washington in early August, marked a welcome and important turning point as trade and investment became a top priority in US-African relations. At the same time, this development has placed the US and the EU on a collision course as it concerns trade with Africa. From patronage to partnership … Continue Reading

Ebola Response Missing A Critical Player

The Obama Administration has mobilized a number of government agencies to respond to the Ebola crisis in West Africa and to prevent its spread into the U.S. At the frontline of the Administration’s response is the Pentagon, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Center for Disease Control, the U.S. Agency for International development … Continue Reading

Emerging Opportunities from the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

When President Obama announced his intention to convene the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, policymakers, pundits, and other interested parties made numerous predictions as to how the historic event would fare, especially in comparison with the summits convened by China, the European Union, and others. Now that the activity of what came to be known as … Continue Reading
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