April 8, 2013
Africa is an increasingly important market for U.S. firms and small businesses, a top U.S. trade official told an audience at Harvard University April 6.
Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for African Affairs Florizelle Liser, speaking on the U.S.-Africa trade relationship at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s 2013 Black Policy Conference, noted that six of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are found in Africa.
“Africa is a trade and investment destination that can no longer be ignored, and I hope that you’ll help Africa to fulfill the promise of a new century as we continue to build shared prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic,” she said, according to a news release the same day from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).
Liser, whose office coordinates, develops and implements U.S. trade policy for Africa, discussed current trends and changing dynamics in U.S. trade and investment policy toward sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2012, she said, U.S. and sub-Saharan African goods trade totaled $72 billion, and U.S. exports to the region were up almost 7 percent from the year before. She pointed to a recent McKinsey and Company study that found that African countries, compared to other developing nations, offer the highest rate of return on foreign direct investment.
That high return on investment in Africa, she said, could account for the billions of dollars (currently almost $80 billion per year) in private investment flowing into the region in recent years.
Liser said the USTR is implementing several trade and investment initiatives on the continent, including the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), as well as the Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) for sub-Saharan Africa.
AGOA, which provides duty-free entry into the United States for almost all products of sub-Saharan African beneficiary countries, has served as the cornerstone of U.S. engagement with sub-Saharan Africa on trade and investment. The program has mutually benefited all parties by supporting economic growth in Africa and fostering an improved African business climate that is increasingly attractive to U.S. investors and exporters.
The PPD, President Obama’s strategy for sub-Saharan Africa, calls for an increased U.S. focus on expanding trade and investment in the region by these means:
• Promoting an enabling environment for trade and investment.
• Improving economic governance.
• Promoting regional integration.
• Expanding African capacity to effectively access and benefit from global markets.
• Encouraging U.S. companies to trade with and invest in Africa.
Liser encouraged those in her audience to work collaboratively with African businesses and governments to share knowledge, establish commercial opportunities and exchange information.