"The nations of Africa are experiencing one of the greatest booms in business in the history of the African continent and the Summit showcases these investment opportunities," said Hayes whose organization seeks to strengthen and facilitate commercial relationships between the United States and the African continent.
U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del), chair of the U.S. Senate Sub-committee on African Affairs, stated that strong bi-partisan support exists in the Senate to strengthen U.S. – African business relations. Coons reaffirmed the importance of an enhanced and renewed African Growth and Opportunity Agreement (AGOA) that includes more effective third country fabric production measures to reduce the export of counterfeit African textile goods into the United States. Coons also talked about the importance of protecting U.S. intellectual property rights in African counties where Chinese and other foreign businesses are producing and selling fake American electronic and pharmaceutical goods.
Ngozi Nmezi, director of the D.C. Office of African Affairs, said nearly 150,000 Africans, including African immigrants and first-born citizens, live in the Washington region and many are interested in doing business in their countries of origin. She said District Mayor Vincent C. Gray supports CCA's efforts to promote closer business relations between the U.S. – Africa, especially in the District of Columbia. According to Nmezi, Mayor Gray wants to reinvigorate the District's Sister City Agreements in African cities like Accra, Ghana; Dakar, Senegal and Tshwane (Pretoria), South Africa with more focus on business and trade relations.
During the Summit's U.S. corporate panel discussion-- "Emerging African Market: Why We Are Investing"-- panelists concurred that business conditions in many African countries are improving and producing from 5 to 6 percent annual growth rates, considered the highest in developing economies.
Cummins, Inc.'s Director of Special Projects-Africa Schuyla Goodson-Bell, announced the corporation will invest $75 million in Africa over the next five years and has opened a corporate office in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Mark Dean, a vice president at IBM, said his company will focus its future information technology and research investments in Africa on skill development and innovation projects. They are the types of projects, according to Dean, that can prepare Africa's enormous youth population for work and promote online government network systems on the continent.
SEACOM Executive Director Brian Herlihy cautioned that while business in African is much better, many African nations still need to adopt greater market efficiencies to improve their legal and regulatory processes, reduce the cost of doing business, promote greater capital flow, and develop more start infrastructure projects that are more suitable for African economies.
Other U.S. – Africa Business Summit 2011 speakers agreed U.S. businesses must not view Africa as a single market because each country has its own distinct cultural and business practices. In addition, U.S. businesses must understand that very few opportunities exist to sign international business agreements with just one visit to anAfrican or any other foreign country.
U.S. corporations and businesses that understand these facts are better positioned to realize successful and sustainable business relations in Africa. For example, in the first week of October 2011, Boeing Commercial Airlines signed two lucrative deals worth an estimated $1.7 billion. Boeing is selling aircraft to two African commercial airlines--Ethiopian Airlines and Nigeria's Arik Air. CCA reports that Boeing has done business in Africa for over 50 years and sold 52 airplanes valued over $6 billion in the past three years. CCA also reports that Symbion Power, based in Washington D.C., has recently acquired an 112MW power plant in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and plans to increase its power generation to nearly 920MW by 2012.
The significance of Africa to U.S. investors and trading partners is reflected by the fact that American exports to Africa grew from $7.6 billion in 2000 to $21 billion in 2010. McKinsey & Company, a global consulting group, reported that the rate of return (ROI) on U.S. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Africa has risen from $9 billion in 2000 to $62 billion in 2008, which represents the highest ROI of any other part of the developing world.