Acting Deputy Administrator John Barsa’s Remarks at Concordia Africa Initiative

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Hello everyone. It’s a pleasure to be here today.

As we all know, Africa plays an increasingly important role in the global economy with some of the world’s fastest-growing countries in terms of GDP and a young and rapidly urbanizing population. The United States offers the largest capital markets in the world; a commitment to local job creation and technology transfer; and adherence to the highest standards of quality, transparency, and social responsibility.

Businesses and investors in the U.S. and Africa are natural partners. That is why the Trump Administration created the U.S. Government Prosper Africa Initiative to significantly increase two way trade and investment between the United States and Africa.

For the very first time, Prosper Africa has brought together the services and resources of 17 participating U.S. Government agencies to help U.S. and African companies do business. By connecting U.S. and African companies with new trade and investment opportunities, the Initiative is creating jobs, driving growth, and fostering shared prosperity.

And at USAID, we are proud to play a leading role in advancing Prosper Africa’s ambitious goals. Through our increased commitment to trade and investment programming, USAID is providing U.S. and African businesses across the continent with a wide range of services, including matchmaking, due diligence, and support to meet international quality standards and certification requirements.

We are making it easier than ever before for U.S. and African businesses and investors to access and utilize USAID’s trade and investment services and resources.

We are also actively shaping new market opportunities by supporting healthy business climates in countries across the African continent.

One particularly promising area involves USAID’s ability to drive two-way institutional investment between the U.S. and Africa. Because if we could get just one percent of U.S. pension funds invested in Africa, that alone would amount to over $120 billion dollars. This is more than double China’s commitment to the continent—and with no strings attached.

Fortunately, USAID’s efforts to date are already delivering substantial results. Since Prosper Africa launched in June of 2019, USAID has helped African and U.S. firms close on more than $1.5 billion dollars in new exports and investments.

But I am even more excited about what’s to come. I’d like to tell you about some of the Prosper Africa outcomes you can expect from us moving forward.

USAID has built an active Prosper Africa deal pipeline worth more than $10 billion dollars. And to start, we expect to close on over $1 billion dollars of that pipeline in U.S. private sector investment in Africa over the next six to nine months. We will do this with U.S. pension funds and other U.S. financial instruments, such as emerging market funds and housing bonds. So what does that really look like in action?

Well, USAID recently helped over a dozen local Kenyan pension funds form the Kenya Pension Fund Investment Consortium—which plans to invest over $200 million dollars in Kenyan infrastructure projects alongside U.S. investors over the next five years. This will expand access to critical infrastructure for Kenyans, improve returns for pensioners, and reduce Kenya’s reliance on Chinese debt.

Additionally, it sends an important signal to U.S. investors that Kenyan pension funds are good local partners.

Collaborating across the U.S. Government allows Prosper Africa to be even more impactful. We are especially excited about our collaboration with the new U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, or DFC.

For example, USAID is providing first-loss capital to Stichting Cordaid, with a $14.75 million loan guarantee from the DFC. Using this financing, Cordaid will support small and medium-sized companies—as well as microfinance institutions—that are creating opportunity and prosperity in West Africa. This is exactly the kind of robust trade and investment support we can deliver by leveraging our resources.

This collaborative approach, which extends across the entire U.S. Government, will continue to support significant Prosper Africa wins for U.S. and African businesses and investors.

Wins like the recent Weldy Lamont deal. Weldy Lamont is a small business in the Chicago area. They recently won a $100 million grid extension contract in Senegal. The Embassy Dakar Prosper Africa Deal Team supported Weldy Lamont’s bid with a whole-of-government package that incorporated tools from USAID, the Department of Commerce, USTDA, and EXIM bank. With this contract, Weldy Lamont will provide energy access to more than 300,000 people in Senegal, while also supporting 500 American jobs across 14 states. This is just the kind of well-coordinated U.S. Government effort we aim to replicate for businesses across a wide range of high-potential sectors.

We’re building on this momentum now and looking forward to delivering even more wins moving forward.

That is why today, I am pleased to announce that at USAID we are further expanding our trade and investment programming in Africa with the launch of a brand new, continent-wide mechanism, the Prosper Africa Trade and Investment Program.

With up to $500 million dollars over five years, this new program will be a true harmonization of our efforts—it will offer a wide range of services including deal facilitation support, business-to-business and investor matchmaking, and targeted policy reforms that help to create healthy business climates.

Using a continent-wide approach, with satellite offices supporting North and sub-Saharan Africa, the new program will provide well-coordinated services aligned with private-sector needs.

For every $1 of public funding, this new Prosper Africa program is expected to leverage more than $9 in private investment...delivering billions of dollars in exports and investment and yielding hundreds of thousands of African and American jobs by 2026.

About 80 percent of funding will provide subcontracts and grants directly to private sector actors. Linking USAID’s funds to private sector capital will de-risk transactions, scale opportunities, and attract firms to the African market.

We expect that this new Prosper Africa flagship program will be open for business in 2021. Today, we are excited to issue the pre-solicitation announcement signaling the imminent release of the Request for Proposals for implementing the new Prosper Africa Trade and Investment Program.

We look forward to awarding the contract that will bring the Prosper Africa Trade and Investment Program to reality. We are eager to see innovative approaches, technical leadership, and new partnerships from applicants for this contract.

So, what new services and resources can U.S. and African businesses and investors expect from USAID’s new Prosper Africa Trade and Investment program?

First, we’ll provide business-to-business and investor matchmaking services across Africa. For example, the new program will organize sector specific trade shows that bring African and U.S. companies face-to-face, including virtually, to establish relationships, encourage investment in shared value-chains, increase sourcing, and grow exports.

Second, we’ll provide transaction facilitation services. For example, the new program will provide a team of private sector experts who will work hand in glove with the Prosper Africa U.S. Embassy Deal Teams. They will identify, evaluate, and structure opportunities so U.S. and African companies can invest and grow their businesses together.

Third, we’ll advocate for targeted reforms that support healthy business climates. For instance, the new program will provide direct technical and legal assistance to help firms, governments, and industries propose regulatory reforms that will remove restrictions, advance specific deals, and open sectors for more investment.

And these are just a few examples. What’s most exciting about this program is that it will have the flexibility to offer customized services in response to private sector needs.

With Prosper Africa, the U.S.-Africa relationship is evolving from an aid-based focus to a true trade and investment partnership—based on dignity, equality, and mutual respect.

And at USAID, our commitment to advancing the goals of the Prosper Africa Initiative is a reflection of the Agency’s commitment to private-sector engagement more broadly.

Moving forward, USAID will continue to transform the way we do business and focus on supporting private sector engagement in everything we do.

Through Prosper Africa, we will continue to help businesses and investors connect to new partners, advance new opportunities, and close deals—creating jobs, driving growth, and fostering shared prosperity for both the American people and our African partners.

Thank you.