On the eve of the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit planned for December 13-15 in Washington, the Corporate Council, in partnership with the African Union and the U.S. State Department, hosted a discussion which was a combination of online and offline, with a number of experts from the United States and Africa.
Taking part were Katherine Tai, the 19th United States Trade Representative; Secretary-General Wamkele Wene from the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA); Ambassador Rama Yade, Senior Director of the Africa Centre; and the Dean of the African Diplomatic Corps in the United States.
This discussion came on the eve of the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit (ALS), which will advance US-African collaboration on today’s most pressing global and regional priorities. The ALS will reflect the breadth and depth of US partnerships with African governments, businesses, civil society and citizens-partnerships based on dialogue, respect and shared values which harness the ingenuity and creativity of American and African people.
There were various themes during the discussion against the difficult geopolitical backdrop of high global economic imbalances slowing direct investment into the continent as well as accelerating shifts in the job market.
It is noteworthy that the United States-Africa Leaders’ Summit will be hosted by President Joe Biden and it primarily serves as a demonstration and commitment toward the African continent, and further provides the platform for new joint initiatives between the United States and Africa.
The discussion reviewed the current relations as well as possible new initiatives that boost the continent’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, how to effectively bolster food security, and to promote investment in various critical sectors, including infrastructure, health, renewable energy, among other priorities.
On the other hand, the discussion also focused on strengthening the African diaspora communities and engaging them in advancing a two-way trade and investment partnership, scaling up innovation and entrepreneurship, and driving advancements in key sectors.
The United States, together with the African diaspora, has a very unique opportunity to make sure to change the narrative of trade and focus on inclusive rather than only on market access. Supporting women and youth in identifying opportunities, challenges and barriers which confront them.
Questions which may be addressed include: What are the challenges that we can confront together? And what are the solutions that we can present to heads of states and government to begin to change the previous years of exclusion of young people from mainstream economic activity of small and medium-sized enterprises and mainstream economic activity to make them partners in their implementation?
The United States understands that the African Union and African leaders are looking at regional linkages very strategically, and always focus on inclusivity – how and what to do to be better with economic engagement, inside and outside, to bring everyone along and not to leave people behind.
The United States already plans to take concrete action to benefit young people, including women, to benefit small and medium-sized enterprises in Africa, creating jobs for over 450 million. And the bulk of that 450 million jobs are young Africans.
The Corporate Council on Africa significantly undertakes the tremendous support and even galvanise U.S. leadership and engagement in partnership with allies and with partners to shape solutions to global African challenges. Its people have a critical role to play in achieving such solutions, Ambassador Tai noted in her discussion.
Nearly all the discussants agreed that all will require a combination of private sector activities and governmental actions, and one key governmental framework for Africa is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The free trade area promises deepening economic integration. It creates a single market for goods and services for almost 1.3 billion people across Africa. In fact, 50 of African Union members have signed the agreement, 42 members have ratified it, and 39 have deposited their instruments of ratification.
The Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), during the summit, will be able to highlight the way forward. The United States intends to fully engage with Africa as the recent Africa strategy says in a 21st century U.S.-Africa partnership, and one aspect of that is friend shoring, which is to say working with reliable partners. It is noted to work within the framework that provides integration between West Africa and East Africa, between North Africa and Southern Africa.
Within the framework of the African Union Agenda, the new generation wants to build on geopolitical partnership dimension in the regional economic communities and with African countries. The point is that there are symmetries, obviously, between the economy and industrial development trajectory, and between developing and developed countries.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act offers rules and regulations relating to trade agreements, especially tariff liberalisation, is an important aspect for building sustainable economic cooperation between the two regions.
The United States and its partnering institutions – both public and private – can best work together to spearhead continuous complementary work as it relates to both business security for participating actors and investors, including for example, the African diaspora and beyond industry for things like creative and cultural industries.
The speakers unanimously confirmed the summit as the highest unique platform to determine the geo-economic centres, examine thoroughly the global priorities and challenges, and concretely design the main directions of U.S.-Africa cooperation. It offers, especially this critical times, an orientation toward the future, at least the next decade, between the African continent and the United States.
U.S.-African Leaders’ Summit 2022 aims at enhancing cooperation on shared global priorities. The heads of state and leaders from across the African continent will converge in Washington D.C. within the context of the United States-Africa Leaders’ Summit hosted by President Joseph R. Biden, President of the United States of America.