Good morning everyone, it’s an honor to be here with you today at this year’s U.S.-Africa Business Summit.
I want to offer a special thanks to Florie Liser and the Corporate Council on Africa for convening this important event.
This year, USAID, the Agency that I have the privilege of running, turns 60. And for those 60 years, the U.S.’ relationship with the continent of Africa has largely been the same. It is a relationship rooted in foreign assistance—in the U.S. working with partner countries to develop their institutions, and investing in education, healthcare, agriculture, and energy, to support Africans’ pursuit of what has been extraordinary progress.
That assistance has been critical, helping dramatically reduce the rates of HIV and malaria, helping lift millions from extreme poverty, and helping Africa record the biggest increases in primary school enrollment of any region in the world.
And our unwavering and long standing commitment to Africa will continue, as we partner with countries to battle a crippling third-wave of COVID-19, build resilience to climate shocks, and strengthen the rule of law amidst a troubling democratic decline on the continent.
But we must turn the page on this chapter of our history. We have to evolve, from a relationship based mostly on aid, to one based on trade. We must strengthen private sector ties between our countries, spur economic investment at a scale that could never be matched by foreign aid, and help Africans realize the kind of sustainable, independent future that they have long sought.
That’s the spirit behind the Prosper Africa Build Together Campaign that we are launching at this Summit. As you have heard throughout this conference, the U.S. is reinvigorating our Prosper Africa initiative through the Build Together Campaign, to elevate our commitment to two-way trade and investment between African nations and the United States.
The Campaign demonstrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to building a better, stronger, more secure and inclusive trade and investment relationship with Africa.
Public investment in developing countries represents just 10 percent of all global financial flows. It is businesses and investors like you, harnessing your resources, your technology, and your expertise, that will truly drive the continent’s long-term economic growth and prosperity.
Through Prosper Africa, USAID will directly connect American investors with African businesses ripe for investment by funding delegations and making crucial connections to local actors, leveraging our long-standing relationships on the continent. This work will help American businesses access Africa’s fast-growing markets, and create thousands of jobs for both African and American workers.
We will have a special focus on small businesses and those led by the African Diaspora—businesses that represent America’s diversity and underscore the deep ties between America and Africa.
One way we will increase investment is by tapping into one of the largest pools of underutilized capital in the world—U.S. pension funds. U.S. pension funds hold $18 trillion dollars in assets that are hungry for high-yield returns, the type of returns you get by investing in Africa.
Angela Miller-May, Chief investment Officer of the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund, participated in several USAID-sponsored investor delegations to various countries in Africa. Those trips opened her eyes to the growth and potential of the African economy.
As she put it:
“Before my first delegation… my understanding of Africa was based on what I had seen on TV or read in the news, and I perceived Africa as a place of risk. But all of those perceptions quickly went out the door: I saw that Africa was filled with opportunities. The discussions [I had]…shortened the distance between the U.S. and Africa for me.”
After those trips, Angela decided to make the fund’s first investment in Africa—a $20 million investment in African companies working in healthcare, education, technology, and other vital sectors of the economy.
This kind of investment is win-win. It gives innovative African businesses the resources they need to grow, while putting money in the pockets of America’s workers….and it would have never happened, had USAID not put Angela on her first plane to the continent.
Through the Prosper Africa Build Together Campaign, we will continue to “shorten the distance” between U.S. investors and African businesses.
Through the Prosper Africa Build Together Campaign, we will leverage our longstanding presence on the ground to build a better, stronger, more secure, and inclusive trade and investment strategy for African nations and the United States.
We will do this in partnership with African countries and in accordance with American values rooted in mutual respect, national sovereignty, democratic governance, and individual dignity—not as a means to advance our own interests or seek favors in return.
We believe in the nations of Africa, in their potential, and in the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of the African people. Now we have to work to turn that belief into action, so we can truly write a new chapter in our relationship with the people of the continent.
I thank you.