Remarks by Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard
at the opening of the
U.S.-Africa Trade and Investment Forum
February 11, 2019
Thank you, Florie.
Good evening everyone and welcome to Addis. What an amazing turnout!
Your presence here tonight for the launch of the U.S.-Africa Trade and Investment Forum is a testament to the fact that not only is Africa open for business, but America is ready to do business with Africa!
Let me begin by thanking our African Union and African government counterparts for engaging with us as we look to strengthen the U.S.-Africa partnership. To help us further that partnership, among us tonight are representatives from the executive branch of the U.S. government, including the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce, USAID, the National Security Council, the Trade and Development Agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Let me also thank our partner in this effort, the Corporate Council on Africa, for facilitating the participation of successful businesses representing the U.S. and African private sectors. What truly sets the United States apart is our private sector-driven alternatives for economic growth and infrastructure development in Africa, so your presence here is crucial.
And last but not least, we can’t talk about the future of U.S.-Africa trade without including the continent’s youth, who represent the future. Earlier today, we hosted our first-ever Africa Entrepreneur Forum, with nearly 50 young entrepreneurs and private investors from across the continent who discussed the opportunities and challenges of doing business in Africa.
In the words of Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Tibor Nagy, one of the key objectives of U.S. Africa policy is “to match American investment and ingenuity with the dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit of young Africans.”
Through the African Entrepreneur Forum, we are supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs to create jobs in their communities, identify challenges to entrepreneurship in Africa, and to recommend entrepreneur-friendly solutions.
I want to extend a hearty welcome to them and encourage the rest of you to engage these rising stars on their ideas about the future of doing business in Africa.
The purpose of this Trade and Investment Forum is to engage on the future of U.S.-Africa trade, recognizing that with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, Africa is on the cusp of launching what will become the world’s largest trade area.
Tomorrow, you will see that not only does the United States support regional economic integration as a policy platitude, but we are walking the talk by investing real dollars in the continent.
The United States understands the choices we make now will shape our relationship with the continent. The investments we make now will yield benefits for generations to come. Before I invite one of our talented young entrepreneurs to say a few words, let me close by reassuring all present here tonight, that
The United States is here to do business.