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Julie LeBlanc’s Keynote Address at the Business Day Africa Trade and Investment Summit
6 MINUTE READ
February 1, 2024

 

Good morning,

It is a pleasure to speak to you today at the Africa Trade and Investment Summit on behalf of the U.S. Mission to Nigeria and of Consul General Will Stevens who unfortunately couldn’t make it today. I am Julie LeBlanc, the U.S. Commercial Counselor to Nigeria and it is an honor to address an esteemed group of representatives from the public, private, and development sectors.

The United States is deeply committed to its role as a steadfast economic and commercial partner to African nations. This commitment was recently highlighted by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s visit to West Africa, including stops in Nigeria – both in Abuja and Lagos – as well as in Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, and Angola. This visit reinforced our dedication to enhancing security partnerships, health initiatives, and economic development in the region. As Secretary Blinken aptly put it, “The future is African.” With projections showing that one in four global inhabitants will be from this continent in the coming years, engaging with Africa is not just an opportunity, but a necessity.

Reflecting on the past year, especially since the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit in December 2022, it’s inspiring to see the strides that have been made. In 2023, the United States supported and finalized 547 new deals, amounting to an estimated $14.2 billion in two-way trade and investment with African countries. This marked a remarkable 60% increase in both the number and value of deals compared to 2022. These investments have led to tangible benefits for both American and African communities, creating inclusive growth, supply chain resilience, and quality jobs.

Some key achievements include:

  • The International Development Finance Corporation’s commitment of over $2 billion across 46 transactions in Africa.
  • The U.S.-Trade and Development Agency’s facilitation of 15 project preparation grants, leveraging more than $3.4 billion in infrastructure finance.
  • The Department of Commerce’s promotion of nearly $3.6 billion in U.S. exports to Africa, along with new bilateral commercial dialogues and the establishment of new Foreign Commercial Service offices.

The U.S. Mission to Nigeria is particularly optimistic about the future of U.S.-Africa trade and investment relations. We are actively collaborating across U.S. government departments and with our African partners. Notable initiatives include the U.S.-African Continental Free Trade Area Memorandum of Understanding.

The U.S. Government’s contribution of $160 million to support the African Continental Free Trade Area exemplifies our commitment. This funding supports the development of digital trade and investment protocols, stakeholder engagement across Africa, and trade facilitation efforts. Our focus is on expanding trade in goods and services, digital trade, and supporting the Women and Youth Protocol of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

When President Biden co-hosted the 2023 African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum with South Africa in Johannesburg, he expressed strong support for the timely reauthorization and modernization of AGOA. This initiative presents an opportunity to adapt AGOA to the modern economic landscape, recognizing the dynamic changes in Africa and the global economy. While Congress will ultimately decide the future of AGOA post-2025, the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to its timely reauthorization and improvement.

Beyond AGOA, the U.S. has initiated several programs to enhance trade and investment with African countries, such as the Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership with Kenya and the $15.7 billion in new investments announced at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum. Prosper Africa is another initiative, uniting services from across the U.S. government to facilitate business in U.S. and African markets.

Under the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment program, the U.S. is collaborating with the EU to support infrastructure development in Angola, Zambia, and the DRC, particularly focusing on the Lobito Corridor. This partnership is a testament to our commitment to unlocking the enormous potential of sub-Saharan Africa.

Turning our attention to Nigeria, one of the continent’s largest economies, we recognize the vital role it plays in regional and global markets. With two-way trade exceeding $10.6 billion in 2022 and U.S. foreign direct investment totaling $5.6 billion, Nigeria stands as our second-largest trading partner in Africa. Our partnership is increasingly technology-driven, with significant investments in Nigeria’s tech ecosystem and collaborative efforts to tackle global challenges in education, healthcare, agriculture, and other key areas.

The Biden-Harris Administration’s launch of the Digital Transformation with Africa (DTA) initiative at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum exemplifies our commitment to this partnership. The DTA aims to expand digital access, enhance U.S.-Africa commercial relations, and strengthen digital environments in alignment with the African Union’s Digital Transformation Strategy. This initiative underscores a collaborative approach – Digital Transformation “with” Africa, recognizing the continent’s significant contributions to the global stage.

The U.S. government’s investment of $350 million in digital programming, with plans to invest millions more, reflects our dedication to this initiative. The DTA will facilitate over $450 million in financing, harnessing the resources of 18 U.S. government departments and agencies, and partnering with African governments, the private sector, and civil society.

As we look to the future, we see Nigeria as a key leader on the continent and a vital partner in advancing our shared values. What benefits Nigeria, benefits Africa and, indeed, the entire world.