Is Africa the New Asia? Rosa Whitaker on How U.S. Businesses Can Win Big
Since 2012, CTU has hosted Distinguished Lecturer Series, a series of presentations featuring highly regarded thought leaders from a variety of fields and industries. On October 24th, Rosa Whitaker, who is recognized as one of the world’s foremost experts on African trade, will speak to the CTU audience on winning in business and in life. Ms. Whitaker was the first Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa under the Bush and Clinton administrations. Whitaker Group, where she is president, has helped bring more than $2 billion in investments and capital flows to the African continent in the last decade. Whitaker’s work has been profiled by CNN, US News & World Report, the Foreign Policy Association documentary “Feeding the Dragon: China in Africa” and Africa Magazine, amongst other media. Register for the Distinguished Lecturer Series webinar with Rosa Whitaker. Participation is free and open to all. Share your thoughts during the webinar and tweet using #CTUchat and @ctuniversity.
When it comes to trade, investment and business issues in Africa, Rosa Whitaker is the one everyone – from congressional panels to CNN – turn to. Her position is clear: Africa is the “swing vote” in the global economy. The continent is quickly emerging as a leader in global investments, especially in the area of agriculture where Africa boasts a food import bill worth $50 billion. Given this news, Africa, which now has 6 of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world as well as the world’s highest return on investment, is earning a reputation as the “New Asia.”
Proactive by nature and known for voicing her opinions on Africa with enough clarity and strength to keep congressmen in their seats for longer than usual, Whitaker offers government officials four suggestions to encourage U.S. businesses to invest in Africa, and win big.
- Incentivize U.S.-based companies to invest in all sectors in Africa. As Whitaker points out, the business climate in Africa is attracting record global investment, including China’s largest investments worldwide. She believes the U.S. can do more to encourage American businesses to invest in African manufacturing, which happens to be the biggest driver of job growth in the continent. She also sees tremendous opportunity in power and agriculture, suggesting that tax benefits be given to U.S. firms that invest in Africa’s non-oil and non-extractive sectors.
- Build a stronger, and permanent, African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Since May 2000, when President Clinton signed the AGOA into law, Africa has experienced noticeable job growth and economic diversification. But given the temporary nature of the AGOA, there is little incentive for potential investors to continue driving business to the region.
- Expand the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). OPIC is the U.S. government’s development finance institution and is the supporting arm for U.S. companies that want to invest in Africa. Some believe Africa is a place of entrepreneurial vulnerability, rather than promise. This negative point-of-view created unnecessary hesitation from U.S. businesspeople, even when they know potential opportunities exist. For example, Africa's living standards and annual growth rates have increased more than thirty-fold over the course of a single human life. This dwarfs the industrial revolution or anything in history. To build confidence in Africa’s future, Whitaker believes businesspeople must know the U.S. government supports the continent. OPIC can help bridge that gap, increasing Africa’s credibility in the U.S. marketplace.
- Engage Africa and its leaders. Whitaker believes U.S. politicians could benefit from developing stronger ties to Africa’s leadership, by consistently engaging them in dialogue and policymaking. This must be more than something checked off a to-do list. Rather, Whitaker believes it’s in the best interest of Americans to include Africa in U.S. policy discussions, just as much as they include Europe, Asia or Latin America.
To get to that point, it would require U.S. government and businesses to first recognize the enormous potential in Africa, and then take active measures to bring more commerce and trade to the continent.
To hear more from Rosa Whitaker, please join us for the Distinguished Lecturer Series on October 24. Please look for future Distinguished Lecturer Series events.
You won’t want to miss hearing from the woman Foreign Policy magazine selected as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2010. Join us for this live, virtual event and take advantage to learn from a dynamic leader on Africa trade and business. Attend this live webinar and learn from a dynamic leader. Click here to register, and remember to join the conversation via Twitter during the webinar using #CTUchat and @ctuniversity.
Image Credit: Flickr/Iain Fuller