On Tuesday, July 16, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative hosted representatives from USAID and local African diaspora business leaders for a conversation on the Prosper Africa initiative and how the new initiative can encourage trade and investment between the U.S. and the region. The meeting started with a briefing from USAID on the goals of Prosper Africa and its relevance for the African diaspora and small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Business leaders shared the challenges they face in doing business on the continent with the aim of offering ideas to USAID on how the program might be best organized and implemented. For example, one entrepreneur mentioned that the current trade hubs in the region are good, but that more support staff are necessary to effectively support businesses across the continent. Similarly, one business leader suggested a shorter time frame to have loans approved by the newly minted U.S. Development Finance Corporation.
The most salient point of the conversation involved data around business in and with the region: Both the diaspora business leaders and USAID representatives expressed their desire for more data on U.S. firms investing or trading with Africa, the progress of specific sectors, the volume of activities on the ground, as well as data on their African counterparts. Such inputs are essential to a well-targeted approach to achieve Prosper Africa’s goal: substantially increasing two-way trade and investment between the U.S. and Africa.
As the conversation closed, business leaders emphasized their desire for implementation and follow-up around Prosper Africa without a loss of momentum.