On the Horizon: New Business Endeavors in Sub-Saharan Africa

July 26, 2012

Francisco Sánchez serves as the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade. Follow him on Twitter @UnderSecSanchez.

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sanchez testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs on July 25, 2012.

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sanchez testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs on July 25, 2012.

On June 14th, President Obama announced a new U.S. strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa. This is a region of growing economic prominence and I am pleased that the President is focused on how the U.S. and African countries can work together to expand economic opportunities for all of their citizens.

The U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa will expand our efforts to increase economic growth, trade, and investment in the region while elevating our commercial relationships. It places an emphasis on development and partnerships and as a result, there will be an increased focus on improving economic governance and regional integration, expanding African capacity access global markets, and encouraging U.S. companies to invest in the region.

And that is exactly what I told Congress yesterday while testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs. On the invitation of Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, I was privileged to address the Committee and highlight the important work the Department of Commerce and our own International Trade Administration is doing in the region.

U.S. exports reached $2.1 trillion in total value last year – an all time record. And these exports supported 9.7 million valuable jobs. I want those numbers to climb even higher and Sub-Saharan Africa is a promising venue to do just that.

In fact, in 2011, U.S. exports to Sub-Saharan Africa were just over $21 billion. Rich in natural resources and emerging opportunities, this region has incredible potential. The mutual benefits are boundless and Commerce and the Administration are doing everything we can to develop these partnerships and markets.

To promote business opportunities, Commerce has taken part in a number of initiatives:

  • The U.S. Commercial Service maintains a balanced presence in the region through offices in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.
  • Our Partnership Post Program with the State Department operates in 25 countries within Sub-Saharan Africa, providing U.S companies with vital export assistance in numerous lucrative markets. This partnership is an important component of our efforts to leverage federal resources.
  • The hard work of our Advocacy Center has helped U.S companies win bids that will directly support U.S. jobs in several states.
  • Through our chairmanship of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), we have begun developing a “Doing Business in Africa” campaign. The campaign involves outreach to the African Diaspora communities here in the U.S to raise awareness of federal assistance programs for doing business on the continent.
  • New trade missions have been scheduled and we are starting to recruit participating U.S. businesses. In September, the Department of Commerce will lead an Aerospace Trade Mission to South Africa while November will see a multi-sector mission travel to South Africa and Zambia.
  • We are working to establish the United States-East Africa Community Commercial Dialogue.  Among other things, this initiative will work to create business opportunities in key sectors.
  • And to reassure U.S. businesses, we are working to address concerns regarding intellectual property.  A common anxiety in all instances of international trade, the Commercial Law Development Program is working to structure IP guidelines and hosting workshops to train government officials.

These are just a few of the projects and resources we are developing. I urge everyone to continue to visit our blog for regular updates in the coming months on our work to support U.S. businesses exporting to Africa – and the development of the continent as a whole.