Remarks of Florie Liser at Corporate Council On Africa (CCA) Annual Members Meeting
March 8, 2017
- Good Afternoon and welcome to CCA’s Annual Membership Meeting
- If I haven’t yet had a chance to say so personally, thank you for coming and for supporting the Corporate Council on Africa.
- This presentation is an opportunity for me to tell you what my vision is for the organization and about some new initiatives we have been working on.
- But it’s also an opportunity for me to hear from you, our members, and begin a conversation about where CCA is headed.
Why CCA’s work is so important
- As I make this presentation, the one thing I would like you to think about is what CCA can do for you and your business.
- My personal, and very ambitious goal for this organization, is for CCA to be the most valuable resource for companies and organizations doing business in Africa
- I’ll start with a story: I was in Mozambique on November 8th – the day of the U.S. Presidential elections – when I got a call very early in the morning Maputo time that I had been selected by CCA to be its next CEO. It was too early to know the results, but as I traveled from Mozambique to Lesotho, I learned that our next President would be Donald Trump.
- It made me think about how this could be an important time for the U.S.-Africa relationship going forward, and I realized just how important my role at CCA was going to be.
- We are in an era of change and quite a bit of uncertainty– not just in the U.S. with a new administration, but in Africa as well.
- There will be several changes in African administrations as well. There are new presidents in Ghana and the Gambia, and we’ll be watching elections in Kenya, Liberia, Rwanda, and Angola very closely.
- So now more than ever is the time for a call to action by the U.S. and African private sector to help shape the Trump Administration’s Africa agenda and policies.
- A lot of think pieces and talking heads have speculated from every possible angle, what the new administration’s policy towards Africa will be.
- There are many challenges and opportunities that U.S. policy should address because we cannot afford to ignore the second fastest growing market in the world. Africa is undergoing the most rapid urbanization rate of any region - 1 billion people with 50% under the age of 20; and despite recent shocks and changes in the African market, spending by Africa’s consumers and businesses already totals $4 trillion.
- Africa is also more connected now than ever before as its internet usage has grown at a pace seven times faster than the global average.
- In addition to having 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) projects that Africa could double its manufacturing output and we have already begun seeing more value-added agricultural and non-oil products entering global markets, including the United States.
- What this means for U.S. and African business is that there are incredible opportunities for greater and more diversified trade and investment.
- But we must also acknowledge that along with these great opportunities, there remain some troubling problems – high unemployment, poverty, and corruption to name a few.
- We’ve heard some talk that the administration will focus on peace, security and counter-terrorism.
- However, there is a link between these issues and the continent’s economic development. CCA is uniquely positioned to “connect the dots” between what is important to the new U.S. Administration and what’s important to U.S. and African businesses – including greater trade, investment, and job creation; and lead a dialogue on the U.S. stake in greater U.S.-Africa economic engagement.
- So CCA – along with you its Members – has a critical mission at a critical moment.
CCA is Unique
- There are quite a few things that make CCA a unique leader in the U.S. and on the continent on the increasingly important U.S.-Africa business relationship.
- First, CCA is the premier U.S. business association focused solely on Africa.
- We truly represent a broad range of business and organizations. It might come as a surprise that about 66% of CCA members are small and medium sized businesses.
- CCA can be a voice for all sizes
- Additionally, about 15% of our member companies are African and it’s our fastest growing demographic within membership. So we not only represent U.S. private sector, but African private sector interests as well.
- Most importantly, we understand the win-win proposition of growing U.S.-African business partnerships.
What CCA Can Do for You?
- The services CCA provide fall under three broad categories: Access, Connections, and Insight. A great way to understand what we do is to break down:
- Access as Business to Government services
- Connections as Business to Business services
- Insight as information and CCA Advisory Services
- There are services CCA already provides and is well-known for, including our conferences, working groups and special events.
- our flagship conference, the U.S.-Africa Business Summit – the 11th-will be hosted in Washington, DC on June 13-16, 2016.
- The Summit was brought back to Washington because it will be one of the first opportunities for U.S. and African private sector leaders and African governments to interact with the new Trump administration and U.S. agency appointees.
- This year’s summit will also be reoriented to focus on transactional results and business solutions.
- We also host smaller industry conferences and forums. Next month, we will be hosting a Finance and Infrastructure Forum on the sidelines of the World Bank Spring Meetings.
- In August, we’ll be in Kigali, Rwanda for the 41st Annual World Tourism Conference.
- CCA also hosts special events throughout the year and the dinners and luncheons we host during UNGA are a great example of our work.
- Trade Missions are another thing we’re known for
- Since 1998, CCA has hosted 33 trips to 22 different African countries.
- These country and sector specific trade missions have been incredibly valuable for business development.
- Participants meet with Government reps and local business partners, in-country.
- We provide market intelligence and customized, on-demand information for members looking to expand their business. We have on-the ground staff in Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya:
- Our East Africa Director, Sonia Mfasoni, is based out of Nairobi, Kenya.
- Our West Africa Director, Ekenem Isichei, is based out of Abuja, Nigeria.
- And our Ethiopia Director and African Union Liaison, Asfaw Alemayehu, is based in Addis Ababa.
- These staff members can provide everything from information to assistance with private meetings, not just in their countries, but across their region.
- You got their contact information as part of your materials today.
I’d also like to mention our news and information services very briefly.
- The Daily Clips is one of the best ways to get the top headlines from across the continent and across industries. We also have a monthly journal to keep members abreast of our work at CCA.
- Both of these also happen to be excellent mediums to promote your business to an active database of more than 20,000 people. If you send us press releases, we are happy to amplify them to our audience.
What’s New At CCA
- So, What’s New?
I have spent the last 40 or so days on the job, strategizing with CCA staff, our board of directors and meeting with as many members and stakeholders as I can. There are some things we’ve started working on right away
- Policy Dialogue: As I mentioned briefly earlier, there is a lot of speculation about what could change under the new administration. However, I thought that rather than speculate, CCA members could actively shape what these policies look like.
- CCA is launching a series of policy workshops called the U.S.-Africa Business Dialogue. These meetings will convene business leaders to make policy recommendations to the new administration for their specific sectors. These recommendations will be shared with the Trump White House, as well as relevant U.S. government agencies working in those sectors and on those issues.
- Re-orienting CCA: I touched on this briefly, but we are re-orienting the organization to be more focused on responding to key business challenges and results. We are revamping the Summit program to facilitate better business linkages and we are reinvigorating CCA working groups and programming to offer tangible business solutions and key insights.
- Personalized Assistance: This isn’t really new, but we realize this is a service most members are unaware of. If you are having trouble moving a deal along, have an issue in-country with a government, CCA can assist you.
- At CCA, we believe the best way to do business in Africa is to be in Africa. This year, we’re committed to walking the talk.
- CCA members are not just in Washington and this year, we will host events outside the Washington, D.C metro area.
- We will have a much larger presence on the continent. CCA is committed to hosting 10 meetings and working groups in Africa this year.
- I will be taking my first trip as president and CEO next week to meet with members and stakeholders in Johannesburg and in Nairobi.
- We have three staff on the continent at your disposal.
- We also launched a webinar series in February, which some of you participated in. The idea behind that is to offer an interactive way to discuss the business challenges and opportunities in Africa regardless of where you are.
- Better Customer Service: We’re also simply committed to serving our members better. To me, this means being very accessible and more responsive: At my very first staff meeting at CCA, I told my staff that I was here to listen, and it is an offer I would like to extend to you as well. Throughout the year, my staff and I will reach out and endeavor to meet with or call you. I want to know as much as possible about your business and what CCA can do for you.
- In fact, I think quite a few of the envisioned changes are in response to member feedback. Something we will also change is our communications because we have heard from some members that we have a tendency to spam them and that information we send sometimes has no relevance to their work. So we will send out an email reminder for all members to update their email preferences with that information. CCA will launch more tailored communications so you get information that is useful and insightful.
- I would also like to mention and acknowledge that we have an incredible board of directors this year. We have a wonderful chairman, Dr. Jeffrey L. Sturchio – who has been guiding and supporting me. The entire board has been active and supportive and we will be launching board committees to help guide CCA to be the most effective we can be for our members.
- Another critical element of CCA is the staff and their expertise. Let me ask all the CCA Staff to please stand.
These are just some initial ideas and as I mentioned, I want to hear from you as well. I will open the floor for questions and comments about CCA and your membership.
Vote of Thanks
- Unfortunately, we are out of time, but I would love to hear from all of you. We are sending out a brief member survey immediately following this meeting. There you’ll have an opportunity to write in your comments as well.
- So I have two “asks” of you today: First, be an engaged partner and tell us what you think. We want to hear from you so CCA can know how to better serve you
- And my second ask is in regards to the upcoming U.S.-Africa Business Summit. The number one reason people attend the Summit is based on a member recommendation - your recommendation. Today, you received the save the date before anyone else, and later today we’ll be sending it out broadly. Please tell your colleagues, other businesses and let them know why you are attending and how valuable the Summit is to your business. Please plan to register, participate, and sponsor.
- Thank you once again for coming and I look forward to working with all of you!