President Obama’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa meets for first time
President Obama’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa met for the first time in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, April 8. High-level U.S. government officials, including National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, attended the session, along with the council’s 15 private sector members, who represent some of the largest U.S. companies currently doing business in Africa. The council’s meeting marked the fulfillment of a key commitment from last year’s U.S. Africa Leaders Summit, where President Obama instructed the Commerce Department to establish a private sector-led working group with the goal of developing a comprehensive set of recommendations to enhance U.S.-African trade and investment. The council’s Recommendations Report was also released on Wednesday and includes several innovative proposals. For example, members of the infrastructure subcommittee, led by GE Africa’s CEO Jay Ireland, recommended the establishment of a “forward-deployed” U.S.-Africa Infrastructure Center that would ensure early American involvement in “target markets” through advocacy, information sharing, and participation in feasibility studies. The report also highlights the development of African capital markets as a critical feature of attracting increased investment, and recommends that the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission provide technical assistance on “market development, surveillance, and enforcement issues” in the region. Outside of recommendations to the U.S. government, council members also committed to independent efforts to support American commerce in the region, including the announcement by Peter T. Grauer, chairmen of Bloomberg LP, that his company would host a business and economic summit in Africa in early 2016, following up on its similar forum, convened last year in collaboration with the Commerce Department.