TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

How US’s Prosper Africa plan can benefit businesses on the continent

Friday, 28 June 2019 Published: | Tibor Nagy

Source: Business Day (South Africa)

In my visit to Mozambique and SA last week I stressed with government and business leaders that the US wants to be Africa’s trade and investment partner. Together with my colleagues from across the US government, including the commerce department and the US Agency for International Development, we outlined a compelling case for the value of a US-Africa commercial partnership based on mutual advantage and shared interest in prosperity for all.

The US recognises that Africa is a vibrant economy and critical trade partner, with six of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world and more than 1-billion consumers.

The continent is already playing a pivotal role in the global economy, with consumer purchasing power reaching $1.6-trillion in 2017.

Meanwhile, producers in African countries can see a US consumer market of more than 300-million people with a purchasing power of $13-trillion – the largest in the world. The US government’s new Prosper Africa initiative reflects our belief that open and transparent economies should determine the future of African countries. It therefore seeks to facilitate partnerships between US and African businesses to achieve our common goals.

Prosper Africa is not a new development programme, but a strategic investment by the US government in the future of Africa. Countries that support private sector ambition and innovation will benefit greatly as the initiative will expand mutually beneficial trade and investment, increase the self-reliance of African economies, grow the middle class in African countries and improve business climates across the continent.

A greater connection between the US and African private sectors will expand markets for goods and services and advance African and American prosperity and security, fuel economic growth and job creation, and demonstrate the superior value proposition of transparent markets and private enterprise for driving growth. US companies bring significant capital, innovation and proven solutions, and adhere to the highest standards of transparency, quality and social responsibility — a clear alternative to state-directed investments.

At its essence, Prosper Africa is a new approach to doing business in Africa that emphasises the value of bringing US and African private sectors together. To do that, Prosper Africa will modernise how the US government supports private sector trade and investment opportunities. It will co-ordinate more than 15 US federal agencies to bring all of our tools and services together in one place. And, by leveraging our embassies and regional and online platforms, we will have a more robust, tightly co-ordinated field presence and a much more informative and focused virtual presence. We will actively support African companies’ efforts to trade and partner with US companies and invest in the US’s vast market. 

Prosper Africa will focus on three primary activities. First, modernising and synchronising US government capabilities and efforts by providing a “one-stop shop” capability for two-way trade and investment with the African continent. This will improve internal US government processes, co-ordination and knowledge management to support the competitiveness of American and African businesses to support public and commercial transactions at all stages.

Second, facilitating transactions by co-ordinating US government agencies to help facilitate, expedite and mitigate the risk of transactions between American and African firms and investors.

The US government’s technical and sectoral expertise and capital, project preparation, export promotion, investment facilitation and risk-mitigation capabilities can, where necessary and appropriate, offer US companies access to information and deal enhancements to open the pipeline of commercial opportunities further on the African continent.

And third, focusing US agencies’ support to African partner governments, helping them identify and address policy, regulatory, capacity and logistical barriers to private sector trade and investment with the goal of fostering business climates that are mutually beneficial for the US and Africa.

This will include technical assistance to implement sound trade and investment policies and help build the capacity of government policymakers, regulatory institutions and procurement authorities to facilitate compliance with international standards of transparency, competitiveness, efficiency and quality.

It will also entail support for customs and border management modernisation; establishing bilateral free trade agreements that promote reciprocal and mature trade relationships; and further development and implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area to reduce the cost of trade and boost the competitiveness of US and African firms.

Prosper Africa will work with partner countries across the continent to substantially increase two-way trade and investment between the US and Africa. That means supporting commercial opportunities wherever they present themselves and could benefit from US government support, whether on a national, regional, or continental scale. Prosper Africa will prioritise engagement with partner countries that demonstrate the greatest opportunities for expanded US-Africa trade and investment.

As one the largest and most developed economies in Africa, SA is a key partner for the US, and the US embassy in SA is committed to growing the commercial relationship between our two great countries. The Prosper Africa initiative will provide new and effective resources to create economic prosperity for South Africans and Americans for years to come. From helping SA companies use the benefits of the African Growth and Opportunities Act, to accessing the new US International Development Finance Corporation, and supporting skills development and two-way trade, Prosper Africa will facilitate growing partnerships between the US and SA’s vibrant business community.

By strengthening our economic ties I am confident we can build a stronger, more prosperous future for both our peoples.

• Author: Tbor Nagy is US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

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