For the US, there is a global power competition
The US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa talks to The Africa Report about China, Global Competition and the drive to get more US companies active on the continent.
The Africa Report: How does the administration want to encourage the US private sector to engage in Africa?
TIBOR NAGY: They’re looking throughout the world for opportunities. So how do they end up in Africa? That’s where African leadership has a responsibility of putting in place the type of environment which is welcoming to businesses that believe in a fair process, that believe in the sanctity of contracts, that don’t believe in paying people off to get the job. But then these companies of ours create employment. They’re very responsible. They take care of the environment. They don’t smuggle out ivory. They follow the rules.
How will you convince small and medium-sized businesses in places like Kansas City to actually get involved with the continent?
And not only Kansas City […] I totally agree with you. I’m Hungarian, but my US home is west Texas. And I always use that as an example with folks: I would like to get the west Texas companies, Kansas companies, the small and medium-sized enterprises [active in Africa] because at the end of the day, they’re the ones that create the most business. And this is where the next initiative comes in, which we call Prosper Africa.
For decades, those of us who took the continent seriously would go visit ministers of finance. I remember in a couple of countries, I would do that and say: ‘You need to introduce a guichet unique [one-stop shop].’
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Well, the sad truth is that the US government never had a guichet unique for us businesspeople wanting to go to Africa. You will get small companies from Kansas City or Oklahoma City to be interested in Africa if there’s a single point with the US government for them to go to, to see it’s okay.
‘How can I connect with the embassy in Lomé, to tell me about opportunities in Togo or to tell me about the business environment?’ That’s the whole concept behind Prosper Africa, to bring the various US government agencies that have something to do with Africa, thanks to technology, under the digital umbrella.
How does that help US companies connect to opportunities on the ground?
The other side of Prosper Africa is every single one of our embassies. We have formed deal teams, which means every single person in the embassy from the first tour officer to the ambassador is going to give a priority to increasing trade and investment, which means helping the companies that are looking for deals. It also means engaging with the host government.
Some African leaders say that while there is Prosper Africa, the security or competition prism comes first for Washington.
For the US, there is a global power competition. And there are many facets. It’s a very complicated relationship with China. On the other hand, our leadership has made some very frank and direct speeches regarding the various facets of the global power competition, and that is being played out everywhere – most especially in places like Africa.