Enhancing Africa's Infrastructure for Trade

Posted by Paul Marin
June 14, 2012
Neighborhood Street in Accra, Ghana

This week, I have the honor of participating in the African Growth and Opportunity Act Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum (AGOA Forum). The theme of the Forum is "Enhancing Africa's Infrastructure for Trade," and it's one that we know very well at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) -- it describes what we have been doing in sub-Saharan Africa for over three decades. Specifically, USTDA helps enhance sub-Saharan Africa's infrastructure for trade and economic growth by facilitating the participation of U.S. businesses through public-private partnerships in the planning and execution of priority development projects in host countries. Our objectives are to match U.S. technological expertise with overseas development needs, and help create lasting business partnerships between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa. The economic growth that sub-Saharan Africa has enjoyed over the past three decades has placed sizable demands -- and stress -- on its infrastructure. The region's ability to take advantage of trade benefits under AGOA, as well as its ability to become more globally competitive, will depend on continued investments in the sectors that enhance the infrastructure for trade, especially energy, transportation, and information and communication technology (ICT). USTDA plays a particularly unique role within the U.S. government to help achieve these objectives. Just this past January, I traveled to New York City with a delegation of central bank officials from the East African Community (EAC) (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda). Over the past few years, USTDA has been working with the banks to promote electronic payment settlement systems that facilitate regional financial sector integration, as well as private sector business transactions between EAC economies. In addition to meetings with Bloomberg and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the RTM delegation and I met with U.S. technology providers that are eager to expand their engagement with the EAC. Since the completion of this RTM, the National Bank of Rwanda concluded a public tender for core banking systems and enterprise resource planning solutions. Although final procurement decisions are still pending, it was gratifying to see a strong level of U.S. private sector interest in business partnership opportunities in Rwanda and elsewhere in the EAC. Reverse trade missions such as this are the mainstay of the International Business Partnership Program (IBPP), our signature program for linking the U.S. private sector to African partners. These visits are carefully planned to enable sub-Saharan Africa's decision-makers to meet with U.S. businesses and to observe the manufacture and demonstration of U.S. goods and services that can help them achieve their development goals. The other principle area of USTDA's involvement in the region is through our Project Development Program. A good example of our work under the program is the decade-long relationship we have enjoyed with our partners in Ghana's aviation sector. What started with the development of USTDA-funded airport investment plans back in 2000 has now evolved into a collaborative effort with Ghana and the U.S. private sector to fund technical and construction designs for a new passenger terminal, as well as a new air traffic control tower, at Accra's Kotoka International Airport. Through feasibility studies, technical assistance and pilot projects funded under our Project Development Program, USTDA is helping overseas project sponsors -- in Ghana and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa -- to identify technological solutions and various sources of financing for their priority infrastructure projects. In the year ahead, USTDA will continue to support activities of mutual economic benefit to sub-Saharan Africa and the United States. USTDA has enjoyed 30 years of working in sub-Saharan Africa, and we are committed to many more.

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