Doing Business in Africa campaign launched

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Johannesburg - US acting secretary of commerce Rebecca Blank on Wednesday launched the Doing Business in Africa Campaign, while also expressing concern at the recent labour strikes in South Africa.

"Any business leader will tell you that their investment and commitment to an area is very strongly related to their sense of political and economic stability in that area. South Africa has been a gateway to the rest of the continent in part because it has had a growing and stable economy.

"Certainly the recent labour issues that have arisen are a great concern. From my perspective my main concern is that you want to create a sense of stability... US businesses watch these things on the news and it affects their view of whether South Africa looks like a place to bring their next investment," she told media.

Blank added that the campaign was an effort to increase US business involvement in Africa and further the US' commercial relationship with the continent. US President Barack Obama in June issued the US Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa committing the US to elevate efforts to spur economic growth, trade and investment in sub-Saharan Africa.

"Overall the campaign is about finding new ways to form stronger partnerships for prosperity."

Blank, who has been acting secretary of commerce since June, said that the campaign covers the entire sub-Saharan region. "We expect to be working in many countries as we possibly can on this. There are no exclusions at all," she said.

She said US agencies will work to encourage US companies and African diaspora owned businesses to trade with and invest in Africa through expanded trade promotion programs tailored towards Africa.

On a recent visit to South Africa, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said that the US had committed to include South Africa as it prepared to extend the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) beyond 2015.

AGOA is a unilateral trade preference programme enacted by the United States in 2000. The programme also has a Third Country Fabric Provision (TCFP) from which South Africa has been excluded since its inception.

Inclusion of South Africa in the TCFP would enable South African exporters to enjoy AGOA benefits for clothing and to source clothing inputs from countries outside Africa.

Speaking at an Agoa beneficiaries' conference in August Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said that government would like an extension of Agoa for a reasonable amount of time.

On Wednesday, Blank said that the administration had stated its strong support for on-going access to AGOA to be resigned in 2015.

"That requires not just administration support but also congressional support. There's no question that congress will look to see whether American business appear to be operating on a level playing field, whether they have access to procurement and to investment opportunities the same as other businesses and if they feel the answer to that is no there might well be hesitations in congress. I have every faith that the solid investment in business opportunities will continue to unfold and we will be in a position to strongly support the renewal of AGOA come 2015," she explained.

Additionally the US government has added that it recognises that financing assistance is vital to increasing trade and investment in sub-Saharan Africa.

As part of the campaign, agencies like the Overseas Private Investment Agency Corporation (OPIC) will assist with the opening of the establishment of the US-Africa Clean Energy Development and Finance Center in Johannesburg. It aims to provide a coordinated approach to clean energy project development in the region. Specifically the center will also coordinate its resources with those of the US private sector, local development banks and private banks among others.

She added that energy was crucial for development, while also lauding the South African government for working towards increasing access to electricity.

US trade with sub-Saharan Africa in 2011 two way trade was at $95 billion an increase of 16% compared to 2010. -