Botswana: My Address on the Occasion of the 15th US-Africa Business Summit – Mokgweetsi E. K. Masisi

Royal Aria Convention Centre, Tlokweng, Botswana — A very good morning to you all.

I am delighted this morning, to welcome you to Botswana, to this important gathering for the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA)’s 15th U.S.-Africa Business Summit, and to this great village of the Batlokwa-the Ethnic who host us here.

Chairman of Ntlo ya Dikgosi and the Chief of Batlokwa, Kgosi Puso Gaborone, I sincerely thank you, your people, and Council leadership, for all the support you provided to make this event possible in your backyard. I thank the Council Chairman Honourbale Mochotlhi and his colleagues Honourable Councillors.

The theme for this year’s Summit is “Enhancing Africa’s Value in Global Value Chains”. It aims to explore new and evolving opportunities to build a stronger U.S.-Africa trade and investment relationship and assist Africa achieve its objective of becoming more competitive and an integral part of the global economy.

Since the inaugural Summit in 1997, the U.S.-Africa Business Summit has grown to become the premier and most influential platform for doing business and investing in Africa. I am immensely grateful to the CCA leadership for choosing Botswana to host this 15th Session.

Distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen, let me point out that this Summit, builds on the momentum already set in motion during last year’s 14th Summit held in Marrakech, Morocco under the theme “Building Forward Together”.

These Summits grant us an immense and consistent opportunity, to renew our commitment as government leaders, influential private sector captains, and all other stakeholders, to build stronger U.S. and Africa trade, investment, and commercial ties. This is particularly so in the wake of the unprecedented health and economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I wish therefore, to stress that the U.S.-Africa Business Summit, remains a key pillar of Africa’s engagement in hosting African Heads of State, U.S. and African government officials, top CEOs, and senior business executives spanning major sectors that are critical to the continent’s development, including infrastructure, ICT, health, energy, mining, and creative industries. This year’s Summit will also be remembered for strong participation by African leaders whose presence builds on the solid foundations laid by the 2022 US-Africa Leaders Summit hosted by His Excellency President Joe Biden of the United States of America.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies, and Gentlemen, the Theme: Enhancing Africa’s Value in Global Value Chains is a profound recognition that there are fundamental gaps between the global South and the North in terms of Africa’s stake in value chains and integration. Consequently, this Summit is a step forward as we forge together toward creating a strong, balanced, transparent, and inclusive trading system that benefits all nations. It is particularly pertinent to the sub-Saharan countries that are faced with enormous challenges relating to industrialisation, job creation, economic diversification, skills gaps, narrow export commodities, and low export capacities.

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As a developing country, Botswana falls within this unfortunate category, despite being classified as an Upper-Middle Income Economy. For her part, Botswana constitutes less than 0.2% of Africa’s population and contributes about 1 percent of Africa’s GDP.

As the world’s largest producer of gem diamonds by value, we must develop value chains for raw materials to allow for greater value addition, spur innovation and growth, adapt to climate change, build sustainability, deepen economic diversification, and create opportunities for exploitation of global supply chains.

It is against this backdrop that my Government has ushered in the Reset Agenda whose key priorities include the need to harness new and evolving technologies brought about by the 4th Industrial Revolution, and accelerated application of digital technology in service delivery leading to economic growth. To create an inclusive economy, we need more private sector involvement to drive value chain development in major industries ranging from mining, tourism, agriculture, and education.

However, our efforts alone as Botswana, will be an exercise in futility if we are not fully integrated into the global economic system. It is on this basis that I wish to recognise, and commend African leaders for the formation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Once fully operational, the AfCFTA will build and strengthen regional integration as well as boost intra-Africa trade, thus increasing value-added production, trade across all valuable sectors of the Continental economy, and attaining the vision of Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.

It is also our earnest hope that in consonance with the letter and spirit of the US-Africa Leaders Summit, the Biden Administration will renew the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) initiative, which expires in 2025. The AGOA renewal now, with expanded mandates, will give a strong signal and confidence to the markets and serve as a catalyst for Africa’s industrialisation and inclusion into the global value chains.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies, and Gentlemen, I am pleased and motivated to note that we are not alone in our quest to build a strong and inclusive global trading system and a resilient African economy.

Allow me to briefly reflect on the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, which was held in December 2022, in Washington D.C., whose aim was to enhance beneficial collaboration between the United States and African countries in areas of mutual interest.

Most importantly, the Biden Administration offered a new U.S.-Africa partnership with an advanced focus on promoting trade and investment between the United States and Africa, highlighting commitment to Africa’s prosperity, security, democracy, and elevating the ideas of the African Diaspora, in particular, youth, civil society, academicians, marginalized populations and women.

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During the Summit, the U.S. Administration announced several new initiatives to expand two-way trade and investment, bolster African health systems, engage the diaspora, and foster technological innovation in African countries. Of all these, the most significant outcome was the United States’ pledge to commit a total of US$55 billion in foreign assistance to invest in Africa over the next three years.

These funds are broadly aimed at supporting the African Agenda 2063, by investing in human capital, infrastructure, digital connectivity, agribusiness, sustainable energy, health systems, and peace and security. Worth highlighting, are the following, which underpin some of the major outcomes of the Summit:

• The US Trade Representative and the Secretary General of the ACFTA Secretariat signed an MOU to facilitate the implementation of the AfCFTA;

• To commit $369 million in new investments across Africa, through the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC). The DFC already has more than $11 billion in commitments in Africa;

• To invest over $800 million in the new Digital Transformation with Africa (DTA) initiated by President Biden in line with the AU’s Digital Transformation Strategy;

• To invest $1.33 billion annually from 2022-2024 (a total of $4billion by 2025) in the health workforce in Africa to build the capacity for more resilient health systems.

Distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen, allow me to express our profound gratitude to His Excellency Mr. Joseph R. Biden Jr., President of the United States, his Administration, and the people of the United States, for having faith in and commitment to Africa’s growth and prosperity.

I am glad that Mr. Scott Nathan, Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), is here this week, leading a strong and diverse U.S. Government delegation to this Summit.

Also among this high-powered delegation, is President Biden’s Special Presidential Representative for U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Implementation, Ambassador Johnnie Carson, and Director of U.S. Trade and Development Agency, Ms. Enoh T. Ebong.

Your presence at this Summit is indeed indicative of the commitment to Africa by the U.S. Administration. Allow me on behalf of the people of this beloved Continent to say in our Setswana language, “Rea leboga”.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I am fully cognisant of the fact and reality that, ultimately, the responsibility for the economic and social transformation of the African continent, lies with us as African nations. We, therefore, stand ready and eager to take advantage of your presence and availability as representatives of the U.S. Government and utilise this Summit as an essential platform, and long-term endeavour, toward building a stronger 21st Century U.S.-Africa partnership.

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Let me once again, highlight the importance of the CCA in helping companies identify new business opportunities, forge partnerships, make strategic decisions, and stay current on policy developments. I am informed that 20% of CCA’s membership is headquartered in Africa. It is my earnest hope that through this regular Summit, we will be both challenged and encouraged to grow this percentage to 50% in the next decade.