This session will highlight the importance of investing in women in the region to advance economic stability and financial growth. We will hear about the experiences of female business and political leaders in the region to explore what is needed to gain gender parity. Additionally, this session will highlight the work that the United States is doing through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and its 2x Women’s Economic Empowerment Program to invest in women in the region.
Africa is moving quickly to reduce barriers to the movement of goods and people across the continent and to significantly increase intra-African trade. Forty-nine countries have signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), and 13 of the 22 needed to bring it into force have already ratified it. At the February Heads of State Summit, AU members are scheduled to begin the second phase of AfCFTA negotiations, which will move beyond trade in goods and services to begin work on competition policy, IPR and investment issues. U.S. companies are industry leads in several of the sectors that AU members are counting on to generate jobs and growth. In the plenary, U.S. and African government and business leaders will discuss practical steps each can take to support greater African economic integration, while also helping grow commercial partnerships between African and U.S. companies.
One of the key goals of the AfCFTA is to enhance both regional integration within Africa, as well as African company integration into global value chains. The OECD estimates that increasing Africa’s regional integration from its current 16% of regional trade to Asia’s average would add 1% to the continent’s GDP ($35 billion, roughly equal to the average of annual portfolio investment over the last several years). More integrated African markets would boost the competitiveness of many sectors, as well as support greater integration of African companies into global supply chains for manufactured goods, agriculture, and key services sectors. This discussion will focus on how African progress in trade facilitation, standards harmonization, and adoption of key trade enhancing policies can accelerate regional integration and highlight what companies are doing to integrate Africa into key value chains.
A lot of the discussion about African trade integration has focused on trade in physical goods, while the share services represent in national economies continues to grow. Particularly as African governments look to create new jobs, the services sector offers tremendous opportunity. Having a stronger services sector will also be an increasingly important factor in enhancing the competitiveness of African companies and enabling them to integrate into partnerships with global companies. This discussion will focus on key services sectors (such as financial, IT, and transport), the opportunities driving growth in those sectors (including those anticipated from the AfCFTA), as well as highlight what businesses are doing to address some of the challenge.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has been the central piece of U.S. economic policy outreach to Africa since 2000. AGOA has afforded African countries unparalleled access to the U.S. market for more than 6000 tariff lines. African exporters have the opportunity to use the remaining seven years of AGOA eligibility to become more competitive and to create the markets and networks they need to become more integrated into global value chains. African governments also have a great opportunity to use this remaining time to chart a course for a post-AGOA trade and investment relationship with the United States. This discussion will focus on what companies and countries would like to see from a post-AGOA trade and investment relationship with the U.S., while also discussing specific examples of how best to utilize existing market access opportunities under AGOA.
This session will suggest priorities and highlight new developments that can support closer commercial and economic ties and partnerships between U.S. and African companies, as well as greater African economic integration under the AfCFTA.