United States-Africa Business Summit

United States-Africa Business Summit: Joy Basu, Alice Albright, Reta Jo Lewis Speak On U.S’s Multi Developmental Programmes On Africa Continent

United States-Africa Business Summit

OpenLife Nigeria reports that in the ongoing U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Dallas, Texas, the Department of State’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, Joy Basu, the Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Alice Albright, and President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, Reta Jo Lewis review defining conversations on the Summit and how the U.S is working to increase trade and investment in Africa.

Their remarks are reproduced below unedited

                                                                Opening Remarks

President, Export-Import Bank of the United States, Ms Reta Jo Lewis

Good morning and thank you very much. It is such a pleasure to be here with all of you to speak about the Export-Import Bank of the United States’ commitment to fostering economic collaboration with nations in Africa.

The Export-Import Bank – as we call it, EXIM – is the official export credit agency of the United States. We actually were established as of February – this February – 90 years ago. EXIM has played a very critical role in fostering economic opportunity for U.S. companies and for partnering nations that American companies do business with around the world.

It is very exciting to be here at the Corporate Council on Africa’s U.S. annual meeting, and it has given us an opportunity to talk about the work that we have and to make some major announcements.

As those of you who do not know, EXIM offers direct loans, loan guarantees, and insurance products backed by the full faith and credit of the United States to support the exports of U.S.-made goods and services.

So we were actually proud to be able to announce that – on Tuesday, we announced alongside the president of Angola, where we participated in a signing ceremony to celebrate the closing of three key partnerships for global infrastructure and investment, PGII projects, in Angola.

The projects that we signed are historic direct loans for more than 900 million to support the construction of two solar energy power plants in Angola. The project is the largest renewable energy project and largest transaction in Sub-Saharan Africa in EXIM’s 90-year history.

We also celebrated the closing of a 363 million transaction on the – our China and Transformational Export Program, which we call CTEP, which goes to support the export of small business Acrow Corporation’s prefabricated modular steel bridges and related equipment to construct bridge infrastructure across Angola.

And then the final transaction that we were able to announce with President Lourenço and signed by his minister of finance, Minister Vera Daves, was a final transaction for 42 million to support Gates Air’s export of EXIM – of FM transmitters, towers, training, and other equipment.

This authorization is going to help extend the Angolan Government’s ability to communicate by radio with approximately 95 percent of the country’s population.

These were projects that we were – have been working with the Government of Angola for the last year, and we know that these are the types of projects that epitomizes our commitment to the Biden-Harris administration’s PGII objectives, a collaborative effort by U.S. Government agencies to support sustainable, clean, resilient, and inclusive infrastructure projects.

So, our commitment to Sub-Saharan Africa is also one of our key mandates that Congress has placed on us since we were reauthorized in 2019 to make more financing available in Sub-Saharan Africa.

And we know there is still more work to be done. We’re eager to continue building upon our strong work on the commitment – on the strong work on the continent and are excited to be here at the U.S.-Africa Business Summit to seek out additional new opportunities to support U.S. exporters doing business in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Ms Alice Albright

Thank you. Thank you very much. Good morning, good afternoon. Wonderful to be with everybody. So it’s a very exciting week for us.

There is, of course, as Chair Lewis has just said, the U.S.-Africa Business Summit going on. It’s the 16th Summit, and there’s a lot of energy in the room, with a number of U.S. agencies there and then a number of participants, heads of state from the continent, and a number of businesses. It was just a terrific – it is a terrific environment.

MCC has a lot going on in the continent. One of the things that we also did this week was we celebrated 20 years of MCC being in operation. We were started in 2004 by President Bush.

And since our founding, we’ve been squarely focused on working on the continent. Of the $17 billion that we’ve invested globally so far, 10 billion of it has gone to the continent. We’ve worked in 24 countries.

We’ve done – of the 10, almost all of it relates to infrastructure in one way or another. We also have a lot going on right now in the continent. We’ve got about $3 billion in active programs.

So in addition to meeting with a lot of our partners, this week we also announced the implementation or the start of implementation of, as I’m very proud to say, our 79th program, and it is a $350 million program in Malawi to help farmers get their goods to market cheaper and faster.

So we are very excited about that. We also had a chance to meet with a number of our bilateral partners – of course, President Chakwera was with us to announce the project.

We also had a wonderful meeting with President Neves from Cabo Verde. Of course, Cabo Verde was one of our earliest partners at MCC, and we announced – well, we announced it earlier this year.

We had a chance to speak with him further about something that we think is going to be very interesting, which is a regional program with an island nation, and I think it speaks to that country’s very strong vision for the role that they occupy where they are.

From a trade and regional investment perspective, we think that our regional program is going to really be very additive to our work, and we’ve got a number of different regional programs that are in various states of play.

And then another program that we’re – I’m just jumping around a bit, but another program that we’re very excited about is our program in Mozambique we signed this past fall, and it’s a half-a-billion-dollar program that will focus on various aspects of infrastructure in Mozambique.

One big piece of it is a significant investment to restore the bridge that connects the southern – the Mocuba* Bridge that connects the southern part of the country to the northern part of the country, and it’s become very vulnerable due to flooding and other things to do with climate change. So we’re very excited about that.

We have a lot of other things going on. We have currently $3 billion in active programs in the continent, and I’m happy to answer further questions about them if we have time. But let me turn it back over to you all so you can get on to other questions. Thank you.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Ms Joy Basu

Thank you so much, and thank you, everyone, for joining. Good afternoon. Thank you for your time today and thank you for the important work you do as journalists. A free press is a critical part of a thriving democracy, and we know that those values go hand in hand with a thriving economy. So thank you for the important work that you do, and we’re just very – I feel very lucky to be here with Chair Lewis and with CEO Albright.

I will just wrap up very quickly by saying it’s been a successful Summit for us so far, and it’s really exciting to see how much progress has been made with the U.S.-Africa trade relationship not only since the December 2022 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, but since I was with so many of you last summer in Gaborone at the CCA Summit last year.

We had a very comprehensive interagency delegation here to meet with the – I believe the final number of participants from CCA was 1,789, so almost 1,800 people were here. And we had representation from across our interagency.

As you heard from my colleagues, so much of the work that our interagency does is focused on energy and infrastructure, because that is so foundational to the work that other industries create.

We also had incredible deal signings with USTDA and Malawi, working on battery storage; with DFC and Sierra Leone, working on energy. And we had meetings here to build on those industries with healthcare, with agriculture, and cross-functional industries like ICT.

I think the goal of this is to really reiterate the U.S. commitment to Africa and the U.S. commitment to a 21st century economic partnership with the continent.

And the work here at USABS is really helping to partner with our African governments and African and American private sector to facilitate private sector-led economic growth and prosperity.


Mr. Andualem Sisay Gessesse of the New Business Ethiopia

Can Chair Reta Jo Lewis please explain the major achievements of the Export-Import Bank of the United States in advancing trade and investment with African countries over the past few years and your plans ahead to further enhance and support U.S. companies to invest in African countries and boost trade between the two sides?

Ms Joy Basu

Yes, thank you so much for that question. One of the things that we are very excited about is that EXIM, as I mentioned, is celebrating our 90th anniversary this year. And our support for Africa really dates to nearly that beginning. \

Since we did our first deal in Angola in 1942, EXIM has had a strong and reliable – and a trading partnership for Africa. And so since 1997, that has been underscored by EXIM’s congressional mandate to build partnerships and increase financings in the region.

I – in Fiscal Year 2023, not only did we – we approved over 1.6 billion in authorizations for Sub-Saharan Africa that I just mentioned, we also have undertaken over five trips and traveling throughout Africa, meeting not only with government officials but, of course, the private sector.

Because we know that it is going to be through public-private partnerships that we can all get this work done.

In the work that we’ve also done in support of U.S. exporters engaging with Africa is that we’ve signed six MOUs with African governments and institutions, as well as signing the memorandums of understanding with Tanzania, Cote d’Ivoire. And we’re – each of these agreements have been designed to facilitate up to about 500 million in U.S. exports financing and deepen the commercial relationship with those countries.

We are – we have been working very diligently with those on the continent where we have signed and begun work through MOUs totaling about 1.3 billion with the African Ex-Im Bank, with the Africa Finance Corporation, and then most recently with the Bank of Industry in Nigeria.

In total since I’ve joined EXIM, we have signed about 2.3 billion of MOUs. And so we recognize that the continent is changing, and we’re committed to the administration’s various initiatives on Africa.

You can see, by the MOUs that we have signed, we are prepared to work with African countries and partner with all stakeholders to ensure that our exporters compete on a level playing field.

And so we want to be partners in the work that all of us do in helping U.S. exporters contract with Africa, as well as as we work with the foreign buyers who want to – on the continent who want to purchase U.S. goods and services.

We know that as we have done – undertaken this work, we know that the needs around infrastructure, health care, women entrepreneurship are very vital for – and are vital, and investments for – are needed for economic growth and for job creation. And so we stand ready as partners and collaborators to work with those on the continent.

And as Alice mentioned, this conference has borne out to be very successful for us.

It is such high energy in the room, and to be able to see how far the relationships that we have garnered, along with others in the United States Government who are here in full force to support these efforts that the President has asked us to in building and strengthening and deepening our bilateral relationship. And EXIM has been – is very proud to have done their part.

Kemi Osukoya, Africa Bazaar magazine

My question is a two-part. What percentage of the deals that were signed will be given to SMEs and women-owned businesses, both on the continent and as well as the U.S. entrepreneurs? And the other part of my question is, being on the ground at events, you mentioned that you’re hearing feedbacks from the partners, with leaders. So could you share some of those feedback that you hear regarding the work that you’re doing on the continent?


No, thank you very much for that question. As it relates to SMEs, I think what a lot of – what we always like to say at EXIM is that we’re the bank for everyone.

And in being the bank for everyone, we have to strive exceptionally hard as we work with large, medium, and small businesses. EXIM, when we were reauthorized in 2019, Congress gave us an additional mandate to make additional financing available in the small business arena, and not just – I call it not just small business for small business’s sake, but also to really drill down and go beyond a small business, but also around women entrepreneurship, around veterans, around – and rural communities, and really in the underserved populations.

And so we’re very excited that with the agreements that have been signed on these particular deals that I just discussed in Angola, there is a significant amount of work that will be done in the supply chain, and most of those businesses are small business.

We have been – as we have worked through this process with Angola as well as with our own U.S. exporters, small business, they all know that small – that the small business exporters are very essential, and we’re going to be monitoring very, very closely what that looks like.

As it relates to – and then additional work that we have done to ensure that we reach those small businesses is to work with members in the diaspora.

The President announced – President Biden announced a diaspora council a few months ago, and one of the things that we’ve been really hard at work with them is to ensure that the work that we do at EXIM is expose to those members who are specifically focused on how do you develop and continue to build strong relationships with diaspora members throughout the continent.

So we’re really excited about the work that’s going to go forth in Angola and excited about the work that we do at EXIM overall, and the fact that last year, when we authorized the over $8.5 billion, 2 point – 2 billion of that was transactions that were in small business.

So we feel we are on target and on tap to reach those goals, as well as the fact that 90 percent – I think it’s like 88 percent, 88.5 percent – of the transition that EXIM does on a yearly basis is in the small business arena.

So we feel pretty confident that small business is going to be very much a part of the work that we’re doing, not only here in U.S. but those also in Angola and in Africa.

Ms. Favour Okpale of BusinessDay in Nigeria

African countries, including Nigeria, face enormous challenges, including inadequate power supply, lack of infrastructure, and security, among others.

Wondering whether these issues were on the front burner at this Summit; and in specific terms, are there concrete commitments from the U.S. to assist Nigeria and other African countries come out of this?” And she also has a question about AGOA. So I think if I could throw it to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Basu for her take on this question.


Perfect, thank you so much, and thank you again for the question. We just came back, actually, from the bi-national mission in Abuja last week, which was co-chaired between Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and Foreign Minister Tuggar, and we discussed these questions in depth there. And so I will be brief right now as the readouts of those meetings come out.

But we had a large session on shared prosperity. And we understand that the challenges that Nigeria are facing are quite acute, and we see them echoed across the continent – as you say, lack of infrastructure, increasing insecurity, and yes, the United States is committed to be a good partner across that spectrum.

What I would say is, in particular, we’ve made commitments both to work on the security situation, but also to, as you’ve heard today, work on infrastructure, whether that’s roads and bridges or that’s energy, huge challenges both in Nigeria and across the continent.

A few concrete commitments were to work on the business-enabling environment in Nigeria, and to make sure that American companies that are investing in Nigeria are having a transparent and positive experience to deliver those goods and services, and we see that across the continent.

We also talked about reaffirming the difficult but hard policy choices that Nigeria is making and that we see being made across the continent to really strengthen their economies. So of course in Nigeria there’s been a lot of challenge with the currency, but it is hopefully something that will make the economy stronger and enable Nigerian businesses to thrive.

We see that work across the continent as African countries come out of the pandemic and try to come out from under quite significant debt burdens and foreign exchange challenges.

And so we are working closely both with our U.S. Treasury, with the central banks of African countries, particularly Nigeria, and the World Bank to make sure that these countries are on solid economic footing to really serve their people and meet the basic public needs, both first and foremost for their people, but also to create the public sector goods that then allow private sector companies to thrive.

So let me pause there. I’m happy to follow up afterwards as well. Thank you.

Sogah Blessed of Joy News TV, Ghana

I’m asking this question because of a peculiar situation we face in Ghana in the energy sector, the power crisis. In 2019 the MCC revoked a $190 million funding for the energy sector owing to some challenges we had with the privatization concession.

I’m asking, given the situation in which we find ourselves now, is the MCC willing to avail this crucial funding, or it will be on the condition that unless the Government of Ghana brings back the PDS concession, which was a privatization module, and at the MCC?


Thank you for the question. A couple – a couple of thoughts on Ghana. We did have a compact with Ghana, and the compact is closed. And we were able to complete a fair amount of that work. Right now we don’t have any immediate plans to work again in Ghana, but we can always look again to see if Ghana may be – may become a country that we can work with again.

Generally speaking with regard to energy, we’re working in a number of energy compacts across the continent right now, because I completely agree with you about how critical energy is to overall development, which is our main mandate.

Closing remarks


I think this has been a very important conversation. We realize – we’re really excited to be able to talk with all the journalists this morning.

I think the thing that we want to emphasize at EXIM is that we have a vested interest in the continent. But we have a vested interest about the people and improving peoples’ lives, not only in America but also in Africa. And so that’s why we are here as well as the work that we have done over decades about building partnerships and collaborations.

And I just want to just continue to emphasize the fact that we are looking for ways of how to continue to work with all businesses, especially large, medium, and small, and that to end on saying that equity is a priority for us.

We proudly provide additional support for those critical businesses. And so when we’re speaking about small business, we’re speaking about women entrepreneurship, we know that they have to overcome a number of challenges.

We know that access to capital is the number one thing to keep them from growing and expanding, and that’s why EXIM is proud to offer additional services to our U.S. exporters and to our foreign buyers and working with our small businesses as we continue to keep a spotlight on them.

And so we are offering the different products and services, and we stand ready to work with them whether it is through initial consultation, helping them as they analyze the opportunities, working – as we work alongside our Department of Commerce who is often leading number delegations that we participate in throughout the continent, and also working to assist small businesses and underserved populations and minority business with connections to resources.

We have a 20-year – five-year history of doing that work, and we have recently introduced some additional products that is going to go to the benefit of that community.

So we are really excited to have been able to have a few minutes to share with you our continued commitment to work on the continent.

Ms Albright

Just very, very briefly, we too at MCC are very committed to a very inclusive approach to economic growth. We didn’t get to touch on it earlier, but we work in almost every country on either figuring out how to include women and women-owned businesses into our work or small and medium-sized businesses.

So this often takes the form of different reforms that are necessary to enable parts of the society that are typically not included to get included.

We’ve got some wonderful examples – one in Lesotho just recently where there were some laws that were changed to enable women to own – to inherit land.

We’ve got a terrific program that we’ve just closed out in Morocco that introduced opportunities to a range of people in that country. We’ve got a wonderful program in Cote d’Ivoire, a partnership with Microsoft that is focusing on bringing digital skills to women entrepreneurs in Cote d’Ivoire.

So inclusive growth is very much a focus of our work, and I think we’re making good, slow, steady progress on it.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Basu

Happy to, and happy to quickly answer a couple of questions that were coming up earlier, one around the feedback that we’ve gotten. The feedback has been for more. Right, we want more U.S. companies, more trade. The momentum is really great and we cannot let our feet off the pedal – our foot off the pedal when it comes to strengthening this economic partnership.

U.S. companies in Africa not only help raise standards, but the work that we do, as CEO Albright mentioned, really creates the enabling environment for all businesses to thrive – African businesses, multinational businesses, American businesses. And we know the marketplace works better when there are more choices, and so we’re glad to be able to facilitate and foster that. And so that’s the main feedback that we have heard across the last – that I’ve at last heard across the last few days, is for more, and a lot of excitement about momentum that’s been made so far.

There was also a question about AGOA, and I would defer to my colleagues in Congress, who really have the responsibility for reauthorizing AGOA since it is a law. But I will emphasize that the Biden administration has expressed strong support for the reauthorization of AGOA and the modernization of AGOA. We want to see it reauthorized in order to be – to continue to be the cornerstone of trade, but also to facilitate our utilization, and to be more impactful and more strategic.

And so we have had great conversations with our colleagues on the Hill, in Congress, and there is what we call bipartisan and bicameral support for AGOA, which I think really emphasizes that our Africa relationship is important across the United States. However, we do need to see ways that that law will actually get signed, and so we are working closely with our partners in Congress to see what can be done.

My push to our African partners on the continent is to develop utilization strategies to increase their usage of AGOA, which is a really incredible unilateral program for African companies to export to the United States duty-free. And we want to see more companies – small companies, large companies – take advantage of that. And so my push to the African partners on the line is to increase awareness but also increase national strategies that will let small companies and large companies make the most of this benefit.

And that maybe leads to my final point, which is a push to all our journalists on the line, which is twofold. One is to keep doing what you’re doing in bringing transparency to your local markets about what is happening, because that is what is required for economies to thrive, is that transparency and that information and accountability. So thank you for the work you do there and the ways that enables democracy but also economic growth. And so keep up that great work.

But also, help us to tell the good-news stories across Africa, but also across the U.S.-Africa business relationship. I think in the last year there have been a lot of hard stories across Africa, and those are very important, and we are working as a U.S. Government to address the democratic backsliding and the incredible insecurity we’re seeing in many areas. But one challenge in enabling U.S. businesses to come to Africa is the risk perception.

And so one thing our team does very closely is try to, on one hand, right-size that risk perception and tell the good-news stories of countries that are taking the right policy decisions, that do have the right enabling environments; and then, other side, working to actually reduce the risk of investing by helping shore up security, helping to foster democracy and reinforce democracy.

So I ask your partnership in both sides of that, both in bringing accountability where it’s required, but also in telling the good-news stories because we know there are so many incredible innovations and entrepreneurs, and the world needs those African entrepreneurs to solve the problems of the future, and you are an important conduit for making sure their stories are told. So thank you.

 United States-Africa Business Summit: Joy Basu, Alice Albright, Reta Jo Lewis Speak On U.S’s Multi Developmental Programmes On Africa Continent
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are committed to African economic growth


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