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[OPINION] New Pro-business U.S.-Africa Policy Approach Opens Opportunities for American Firms Patient Capital


Historically, the majority of American firms have remained hesitant to commit capital to Africa. The continent has been viewed by many investors as too risky, especially given the myriad of post-2008 regulatory and governance requirements they must adhere to. But now, the continent has become too politically and economically important to ignore. As a new era in U.S.-Africa relations is ushered in by the Trump administration, fresh opportunities are opening up for American companies in what many international investors now view as the world’s largest emerging market.  Firms on the lookout for new investment destinations for their capital, now have the administration’s support at the highest levels. In recognition of Africa’s increasing importance on the global political and economic stage, last year the U.S. announced a number of important changes to its policy on Africa. This marked a shift from focus on providing development assistance to driving a business-first agenda. Foreign investors should take a long-term and patient view to accommodate Africa’s new strategic importance in the global world order. Of course, what will ultimately set American companies apart from competing interests in Africa is not their commercial or even diplomatic approach to investment on the continent.


A Rough Start to WEF Africa in Cape Town

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has told officials and business leaders that he was committed to quelling attacks on foreigners that have threatened to cast a cloud over an economic forum aimed at boosting intra-African trade. Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika pulled out of the conference at the last minute, prompting speculation in South African media that the no-shows were linked to the attacks on foreigners. But WEF spokesman Oliver Cann said Kagame and Mutharika had informed conference organisers that they could not attend by Saturday, before the attacks had started. Hundreds of mainly female students protesting about violence against women tried to storm the conference centre in Cape Town where the WEF meeting was being held, but they were restrained by a heavy police presence. The protesters shouted slogans such as “We want justice!” and sang songs from the struggle against apartheid while conference delegates peered through glass to watch the spectacle. 


South African Businesses Feel the Wrath in Other African Countries

Anti-foreigner attacks in Johannesburg have triggered violence and widespread looting of South African-owned brands in Nigeria. Protesters set fire to many entrances leading into a busy mall housing South African retail store Shoprite and looted groceries and toiletries from the supermarket in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial center. Nigeria has pulled out of the ongoing World Economic Forum in Cape Town and also plans to recall its ambassador to South Africa in protest against the attacks. Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said rioters destroyed some businesses owned by its citizens in South Africa in the latest attacks which began in Jeppestown, a neighborhood in Johannesburg, but has quickly spread to other areas. Students in Zambia demonstrated in front of a South African owned Pick N Pay store on Tuesday in protest against the attacks. Zambia’s transport ministry has also warned truck drivers against traveling to South Africa until security issues have been resolved.


A Unified Set of Rules to Start a Business in Africa

Delegates at the World Economic Forum in Africa say that Africa needs more nimble policy making to allow entrepreneurship to flourish and the continent to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “What you need is policy certainty, don’t fiddle with policy forever,” A.T. Kearney’s managing director for Africa, Theo Sibiya, said at a panel discussion of the Africa Growth Platform on the opening day of the WEF meeting in Cape Town. Sibiya said SMMEs had a superior ability to bring youth into the workforce and should again be given the space to identify the technologies that are critical to flourish, with 3D printing and artificial intelligence driven technologies being growth areas. WEF launched the Africa Growth Platform to help the continent’s start-ups to grow and compete in international markets. One of its aims is to secure a commitment from governments to implement policy reforms to stimulate business growth.


Will the Papal Visit to Africa Provide the Relief that the Continent Needs?

A trip to Africa that begins on Wednesday may offer Francis a chance to be the pope he wanted to be. On his return to sub-Saharan Africa, his 31st trip abroad, he finds himself on the front lines of poverty, climate change and migration — his signature issues — while emphasizing Africa’s centrality to the future of the church. His arrival on Wednesday evening in Mozambique, which will be followed by stops in two island nations off its coast — Madagascar and Mauritius — will provide a sort of thematic homecoming for a pope who has prioritized what his Jesuit religious order calls the global “peripheries.” On landing, the pope was greeted at the Maputo airport by Mozambique’s president, a red-jacketed brass band and dancers in traditional dress.


Kenya and Somalia’s Title Deed Battle

The Kenyan government is seeking to postpone a hearing on a maritime dispute with Somalia. Both countries claim control over a 100,000-square-kilometer area in the Indian Ocean that is said to be rich in natural resources. Kenya has requested a one-year postponement of the case in order to install a new legal team. The hearing was set to take place next week from Sept. 9-13 at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The Somali government has rejected Kenya’s last-minute request. Kenya has engaged in a diplomatic effort to have the dispute heard outside the ICJ, possibly by the African Union. Somalia has insisted that it wants the top international judicial body to settle the case. Somalia originally filed the case at the ICJ in August 2014 after negotiations with its East African neighbor failed. Kenya has launched a preliminary objection to ICJ’s jurisdiction over the case, but the court rejected the objection.


Proposed Divorce Insurance for Egyptian Couples

If you cannot afford divorce, don’t get married. That’s the philosophy Egypt is turning to, on the back of skyrocketing living costs and escalating divorce rates. And it’s an approach that could be adopted more widely throughout a region not traditionally known for gender rights.Egyptian breakups reached 211,500 last year, up nearly 7 percent from 2017, while fewer couples are marrying. But Cairo’s autocrats are fixing that, OZY reports. The government’s planning alimony reform and aims to end verbal divorce, which allows men to ditch their wives with just a few words. Egyptian authorities are now trying to deploy a mandatory divorce insurance for all men looking to marry. The proposed law, drafted by Egypt’s national financial regulator, is aimed at ensuring that men can pay alimony to ex-wives in the event of divorce — whatever their economic condition. The bill, the latest in a set of moves the government is taking to address the spiraling divorce rate, is expected to pass in Parliament later this year.


Protecting the Congo Basin

The Republic of Congo is joining an international program that will grant the country $65.6 million to better protect the rainforest and fight climate change. President, Denis Sassou N’Guesso, signed up for the Central African Forest Initiative during a meeting in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron. The program’s financing is provided by a coalition of donors: the European Union, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea and the United Kingdom. Conservationists consider the Congo Basin as the earth’s second set of lungs, after the Amazon. Logging, farming and armed conflict still menace Africa’s jungles, which include the Congo Basin, the world’s second largest after the Amazon, but analysts are increasingly hopeful its remaining wilds can be rescued. Macron pledged last week at the G-7 summit to help sub-Saharan African countries fight fires raging in the area that are being compared to the Amazon rainforest fires.


Restoring Public Trust in her Country’s Justice System

Meaza Ashenafi, Ethiopia’s first female president of the Federal Supreme Court, was appointed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in November 2018, the chief justice is tasked to reform her country’s entire judicial system. “I always believed that promoting justice is my duty … I decided to take up this position to restore public trust in the judiciary. I knew it’s going to be a difficult assignment. There is a lot of expectation from the judiciary. The history of the judiciary [in Ethiopia] … has not been beautiful and people expect this to be corrected and they want that change not tomorrow, they want it today.” Today, Meaza feels Ethiopia is poised to develop rapidly on a wave of new progressive policies and emerge from decades of dictatorship and conflict. 


Creating an African Collection that Will Make Louis Vuitton Swoon

Thebe Magugu had had a busy year: he won the 2019 International Fashion Showcase at Somerset House and he was announced as one of the eight finalists of this year’s LVMH Prize. Designers selected – amongst them, Nigerian designer Kenneth Ize, British designer Bethany Williams or Hed Mayner from Israel – had to present a collection to over 63 judges including Dior creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Louis Vuitton creative director Nicolas Guesquière, US designer from the eponymous label, Marc Jacobs and Executive Vice President of Louis Vuitton, Delphine Arnault. Shining a light on what it means to be an African designer, focusing on ready-to-wear and creating clothes that are deeply embedded into South Africa’s culture, Magugu is resolute about his future and what he wants to achieve. “In very basic terms, I really do want to make sure that I am happy in the life I’m living but I also want to make sure that if ever I do leave, God forbid, that I would have contributed something quite solid not only to the industry but the world in general. I just want to have made an impact and contributed to something bigger than myself.”


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