The African Union Mission to the U.S., USAID, and the State of Maryland Convene to Discuss U.S.-Africa Trade and Investments Opportunities

Speeches Shim

Friday, February 28, 2020

On February 18, 2020, the African Union Mission to the United States hosted a U.S.-Africa Trade conference at the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore, Maryland, in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the African Diplomatic Corps, and the Maryland Governor’s Commission on African Affairs.

The all-day conference, entitled “U.S.-Africa Trade: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. A Baltimore Port of Entry Case Study,” hosted more than 250 participants and featured panels with representatives from the African Union Commission, the State of Maryland, the African Diplomatic Corps, the U.S. and African private sectors, and six U.S. Government agencies that support U.S.-Africa trade: USAID, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the U.S. Trade Representative, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The event provided a platform for U.S. and African public and private sector representatives to discuss the challenges and opportunities related to the U.S.-Africa trade relationship, and for those in attendance to forge connections to help U.S. and African businesses better understand and participate in one another’s markets.

In his welcoming remarks, the Charge d’Affaires (ad interim) of the AU Mission to the U.S, Tarek Ben Youssef, underscored that a strong trade and investment partnership between Africa and the United States is a shared strategic interest, inviting the private sector to seize the opportunities Africa has to offer, particularly with trading under the new Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) slated to begin this July.  Mr. Youssef emphasized the increasingly important role that cities like Baltimore play in international trade due to their resources, expertise, and links to the African Diaspora.

The Honorable John C. Wobensmith, Maryland Secretary of State, also provided remarks, along with His Excellency Michael Moussa-Adamo, Ambassador of Gabon and Vice-Dean of the African Diplomatic Corps, and Oren Wyche-Shaw, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa for USAID.

In the keynote address, Chiza Charles Chiumya, the Acting Head of Trade Division, at the Department of Trade and Industry of the AU Commission, outlined the case for the AfCTA and provided an update on the status of its implementation.  Mr. Chiumya stated that the legal framework established by the AfCFTA will transform Africa’s economies into one large, seamless market that delivers certainty and predictability to businesses and investors and enables them to achieve economies of scale. 

The panel discussions included a review of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) at 20 years; a look ahead to the future of U.S. trade through the lens of the new Prosper Africa initiative; an examination of the current challenges and trends in improving trade facilitation in Africa; and presentations by Embassy representatives from Algeria, Djibouti, Ghana, Mauritius, Morocco, and Zambia on trade and investment opportunities in their respective countries.

The Baltimore conference is the second joint collaborative effort between the African Union Mission to the U.S. and USAID after the Diaspora Trade and Investment Conference held in October 2018 in Washington, D.C.