07 NOVEMBER 2019

Prosper Africa: Boosting Trade and Investment Between the United States and Africa

Session explores U.S.-Africa trade potential

“We must not look at Africa’s potential today,” said Matthew Rees, interim coordinator at the Prosper Africa trade initiative, during a November 7 meeting at the Cairo Marriott Hotel. “Instead, we must look at what the potential will be like in 2030, 2040 and 2050.”

To capitalize on such potential, Rees points to the Prosper Africa trade initiative, which includes North Africa for the first time. “It is a direction and policy from the U.S. president to help American investors to invest in Africa,” he said. The initiative creates one-stop shops with U.S. embassies for both American and African investors.

Looking ahead, U.S. companies need to expand the spectrum of their trade with African countries. “We currently trade in 10 to 15 main items,” said Rees. “We must look to ICT, medical services and devices, value-add manufacturing, and services.” Lastly, he stressed the importance of American and African SMEs doing business together to ensure sustainable cooperation.

During the first panel discussion, large U.S. companies in Egypt showcased the advantages and opportunities of doing business with African nations. They cited the continent’s rapid population growth and the lack of  infrastructure and services, such as poor access to healthcare and medicine.

For long-term access, the panelists highlighted the importance of having a nation as a base from which to access the rest of the continent. Additionally, the panel emphasized the value of ICT expertise and reliable local partnerships.

Discussions in the second panel session stressed the importance of having agreements to facilitate trade between African countries and the U.S. So far, there is none. The other major task is to generate more market information relating to the needs and supply figures for all goods and services. Lastly, some panelists voiced concerns about Africa’s customs regulations and processing, as well as intellectual property rights violations, which could cause U.S. investors to look elsewhere