Africa: U.S. Africa Strategy Speech at Trade and Investment Luncheon
Thank you, Ambassador, for that introduction and to you Maria, I also would like to thank, as the Ambassador said, the U.S.-Angola Chamber of Commerce, and AmCham Angola, and of course Chevron for sponsoring this event. Good afternoon everyone, and thank you all for the warm welcome and for joining me here today. This is my first trip to this beautiful country, and it’s a real pleasure to be here in Angola.
As Ambassador Fite said, I would like to speak today about how the U.S. Africa strategy can unlock the many economic opportunities we’ll discuss at greater length throughout today’s luncheon. I look forward to highlighting the many ways we can work together to promote shared prosperity and security in the United States, in Angola, and across the African continent.
As you know, our administration recently announced the new Africa Strategy to revitalize our engagement with African partners and promote a prosperous and secure future for all Africans.
At the core of this strategy, we’ll work hard to expand economic opportunities; support sustainable and inclusive development; advance peace and security, including combating terrorism and other extremist groups; and promote stability, human rights, good governance, and self-reliance.
The Africa Strategy underscores our long-standing commitment to Africa and to moving African countries away from foreign assistance, toward self-reliance and sustainable financial independence.
Recognizing the enormous economic potential on the continent, the Administration has made the expansion of trade and investment in Africa a key priority for the United States.
By 2025, we expect that nearly two-thirds of the estimated 300 million African households will have discretionary income, which makes this a key market for globally competitive American companies.
In 2017, the United States had $39 billion in two-way trade with sub-Saharan African countries. Our Administration believes we can do a lot better than that.
Through “Prosper Africa,” a new Presidential Initiative, we will support U.S. investment across the continent, improve the business climate, and accelerate the growth of Africa’s middle class. We’ll also prioritize employment opportunities for Africa’s youth.
In support of Prosper Africa, this past October, the President signed into law the BUILD Act, establishing the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, or IDFC. This initiative more than doubles (from $29 billion to $60 billion) the amount of capital we can use to support private sector investment in developing countries. With the BUILD Act and the IDFC, we are well- positioned to unleash the full potential of private sector-led growth in Africa.
Already, the United States remains the largest private foreign investor in Africa. From 2001 to 2017, our yearly investment in Africa increased from $9 billion to $50 billion, creating new businesses opportunities across the continent. But even with that increase, we are merely scratching the surface of the available pool of capital the United States can invest in Africa.
Since 2000, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, has been at the center of U.S.-African engagement on trade and investment, offering duty-free market access to eligible African countries and incentivizing inclusive economic growth and regional stability. Angola is eligible for preferential trade benefits under AGOA, and we continue to explore how to maximize those benefits.
I can’t stress enough that the United States values our long-standing and wide-ranging cooperation with our African partners, especially with a strategic partner like Angola. Angola is the third-largest trading partner of the United States in sub-Saharan Africa, with bilateral trade valued at $3.5 billion in 2017. American companies are among the largest investors in Angola—many of them for decades.
I had the privilege and honor to meet today with President Lourenço and then with Foreign Minister Augusto earlier Based on our conversations, I know that the Lourenço Administration is committed to increasing commercial connections and cooperation with the United States.
We see great opportunity in Angola’s economic diversification policy that will bring new U.S. products and services to Angola. U.S. companies, as global leaders in many sectors, can contribute greatly to Angola’s development by providing high-quality goods and services through transparent processes. In that vein, the United States joined with other nations to vote affirmatively for the International Monetary Fund’s $3.7 billion credit line for Angola in December to support the country and the administration’s economic reforms.
But based on my discussions with business leaders over the past several days I know the picture isn’t perfect. Companies, U.S. companies in particular, do face barriers to trade in Angola. To remedy this, some time ago, ten years ago we signed a trade and investment framework agreement to promote greater economic cooperation between our two countries. We are pursuing negotiations to strengthen this trade relationship and reduce trade barriers to the mutual benefit of our citizens. It’s been a failing, I think, of both of our sides, the United States and Angola that we haven’t pursued these negotiations under the TIFA framework more aggressively, but we’re committed to doing that.
I’mproud to say that we have made progress. We hosted two successful visits with the U.S. Treasury Department, during which our representatives met with the Ministry of Finance, Financial Intelligence Unit and Bank of Angola representatives. Based on these meetings and the progress Angola has made, we are now able to offer a Department of Treasury Technical Advisor here at the Embassy in 2019.
President Lourenço’s commitment to combatting corruption is another significant positive signal to foreign investors. The creation of a transparent business environment will generate even greater U.S. private sector interest in trade and investment in Angola. Likewise, parliament’s passage of the new private investment law and relaxed visa requirements will make it easier for private foreign investors to pursue opportunities in Angola.
Apart from trade, President Lourenço and I talked about several pressing matters of international peace and security in our meeting this morning.
Chief among those concerns is the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. On this, our message is clear: Angola has a place next to Brazil, Portugal, and over 50 other countries that have recognized Juan Guiado as the interim President of Venezuela—we hope that the Angolan government will join us in supporting democracy in Venezuela. Democratic countries everywhere should stand up for democratic governments anywhere.
On the African continent, our foreign policy is based on the premise that Africans must be responsible for solving African problems. The second element of our Africa strategy emphasizes African ownership of responses to regional threats to peace and security.
Security institutions must be effective, accountable, and capable for African governments to respond to regional threats to peace and security. That’s why we have provided peacekeeper training and equipment to over 20 African countries.? We are encouraged by Angola's deployment in support of regional peacekeeping efforts in Lesotho; and by Angola’s leadership in encouraging the Democratic Republic of the Congo in its first-ever political transition of power.
We value Angola as a security partner, and have worked with Angolan and regional maritime forces in combatting privacy, oil bunkering, and illegal fishing. Our partnership has resulted in increased sub-regional and international cooperation to strengthen maritime security, which includes the security of many of the oil companies represented here today.
In fact, a multinational maritime security exercise, Operation Obangame Express, is taking place right now off the coast of Angola. Moreover, Angola has demonstrated increasing leadership in maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea Commission, helping to pave the way for greater economic independence and increased legitimate trade to and from the continent.
Angolan military officers have attended U.S. military institutions and participated in AFRICOM-led military training exercises, focused on maritime security, peacekeeping, and medical readiness. This exposure introduces foreign defense personnel to U.S. military training, doctrine, and values. It also helps to build the capacity of local security forces to counter national and transnational threats, while strengthening the rule of law and security services’ accountability and performance.
Prosperity, security, and stability require strong and accountable democratic institutions. That is why the third core element of our Africa strategy emphasizes self-reliance, good governance, and respect for human rights. Ultimately, we want to end the need for foreign assistance, for the benefit of all. I believe we share the goal of achieving substantial, measurable progress in economic growth; advancement of good government; creation of a level playing field for U.S. and all other international investors; and of course strong rule of law.
While there is no magic formula for?maximizing a nation’s overall development, expanding opportunities for education and training of youth populations is one of the most crucial ingredients. Several years ago, the United States created the Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI, to provide a new generation with the leadership and entrepreneurial skills needed to lead their countries into a brighter future.
These young leaders, including more than 100 in Angola, are making a great impact by creating jobs and developing innovative products and services. They are stepping into leadership positions in their communities and governments. By increasing employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for Africa’s youth, economic ingenuity and prosperity will flourish, ultimately serving as a counter weight to violent extremism, poverty, and despair.
With so many opportunities at Angola’s front door, it’s important that adequate conditions are met to sustain a healthy workforce. We know that many of you in this room understand this urgent need because you have personally worked to improve health outcomes for Angola.
With support of the Association of Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Companies, USAID mobilized $1.2 million to build a hospital to benefit Angolans affected by floods in 2015 in the Port City of Lobito, Benguela Province. Construction was completed in 2018, and the Benguela province has equipped the hospital in anticipation of its inauguration this month.
From 2010-2017, ExxonMobil donated $500,000 annually to support the prevention and control of malaria, and we are now working with Chevron to expand outreach to Angola’s populations at highest risk for HIV/AIDS.
The United States wants to encourage African leaders to choose sustainable foreign investments that help their countries become self-reliant, unlike those investments offered by China that impose undue costs.
We ask countries to consider how their relationship with China aligns with their ambitions for sustainable development. Under our Africa Strategy, the United States will expand economic ties on the basis of mutual respect, and we will help African nations take control of their economic destinies.
We encourage Angola and other African countries to choose high-quality, transparent, inclusive, and sustainable foreign investment, not predatory investment and development initiatives that raise debt to unsustainable levels. These loans can impose unnecessary burdens on recipients that jeopardize their sovereignty.
Just as we encourage countries to consider the implications of partnership with China and how it aligns with your own sustainability and prosperity goals, we do the same with regard to Russia. Russia often utilizes coercive, corrupt, and covert means to attempt to influence sovereign states, including their security and economic partnerships.
Angola of course has ties to Russia bound into its history. But as it builds a future business-friendly, more open, democratic country, it should look to countries that are better models of transparency and economic sustainability.
The bottom line is this: the United States has an unwavering commitment to Angola and countries across Africa. No other nation matches the breadth and depth of the United States’ engagement on the continent, from health and education, to supporting women and youth, engaging civil society, and bringing electricity and water to millions of people.
Africa is the dynamic continent of the future, and Angola has proven itself as an example for other African nations to follow.
An old African proverb instructs that we cannot play the drum with just one hand. Let us continue to work together, like two hands playing a drum, to promote shared American and Angolan prosperity and security.
Thank you again for the honor and privilege of speaking to you here today, and I look forward to our continued engagement with Angola and throughout Africa. Thank you.