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.


  1. I am really inspired by the initiatives made by this current Administration to foster graet economic development in the Sub-saharan Africa.

    There are enormous potentials for American businesses that if enhanced will go a long way to spure job growth not only for Americans but Africans as well.

    Instesd of giving them fish, we should open the oceans and rivers and teach them how to become partners in fishing.

  2. The United States export initiative to Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is part of a broad and diplomatic economic security policy throughout the least developed world. I feel that the attempt to strengthen trade between the US and SSA comes at an excellent time when many developing countries are on the verge of exponential growth. For instance, in 2002 Angola ended a three decade civil war that left the country in complete ruins; however, in 2007 they joined the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and established themselves as the 4th largest diamond exporter in the world. Angola’s quick success in exporting natural resources is reflective of the potential growth throughout all of SSA and opens great trade potential for US companies.

    The primary sectors a country needs to successfully develop are agriculture and manufacturing with the support of logistics through companies such as FedEx and UPS. The opportunities for US companies to invest in these areas are nearly endless due to advanced technology and available capital. As the United States increases their economic influence throughout SSA they will have the opportunity to assist in forming sustainable growth practices and transparent governments in areas of African once unable to properly handle a rapidly expanding economy. Companies must act now because growth in SSA will continue with or without US assistance as firms around the world yearn to invest in Africa. According to the Under Secretary the record setting amount of $2.1 trillion exports sold by US companies last year resulted in 9.7 billion jobs. Thus, by using basic arithmetic I calculate that the $21 billion of exported goods and serves sold to SSA last year generated 97,000 domestic jobs. With continued trade improvements between the US and SSA we will likely see decreases in US unemployment and economic advancement throughout Africa.

  3. I would like to commend the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee’s ( TPCC) ” Doing business in Africa” Campaign on being quite an extensive one .

    My bias may however stem from the fact that both the Managing Partner and I were interviewed in the second quarter of 2013 by an analyst of the world bank who represented the Doing Business In Africa campaign about a few of the challenges we and our clients faced (in conveyancing) as commercial lawyers operating in Ghana.

  4. Yeah there are too many companies in a market who is ready to start their business and also want to invest in the property in the Sub-saharan Africa, But its never an easy.

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