Africa is open for business. That was the message shared with participants of the Washington, D.C., leg of the inaugural Africa Investment Rising Roadshow Tour, sponsored by the East and Southern Africa Trade and Investment Hubs.
The roadshow, operated by the Initiative for Global Development (IDG), kicked off on April 18 and spent three days in the United States Capitol. Participants met with leaders from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), African Development Bank, members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and other government agencies, institutional banks, investors, law firms, and others.
The visit consisted of panel discussions about how small African firms can seek financing through U.S. government lending facilities such as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; conversations with private sector representatives; and networking opportunities.
Boosting trade between the United States and Africa was a key topic. In 2015, the United States had a $37 billion in total (two ways) goods trade with Sub-Saharan Africa. Some participants expressed disappointment that the figures are not higher. Part of the problem, most participants agreed, is the perception that investing in Africa is too risky. USAID Southern Africa Mission Director John Groarke said the benefits far outweigh any perceived risks. With six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies, Africa shows vast investment potential. USAID connects U.S. investors with profitable, growing enterprises while helping to ensure a stable, business-friendly environment that evens the playing field for American companies.
Oren E. Whyche-Shaw, Deputy Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Africa Bureau, stressed that African firms “cannot rest on their laurels. They must compete on a global scale.” She said firms must be ready for that competition and that USAID is “ready to help you do that. Just tell us how we can assist you.”
Participants learned about the myriad of outlets for financing that are available including the U.S. Small Business Administration, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the African Development Bank, and the MCC.
One female African entrepreneur who spoke to the group in Washington said she was “amazed that there are so many resources available to African firms.”
The roadshow will next go to New York City, where participants will have the opportunity to meet with more financiers.