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Remarks by EXIM President and Chairman Kimberly Reed at the Corporate Council on Africa

Chairman Kimberly Reed

Sep 18, 2019 – Washington, DC

Thank you, Florie, for that kind introduction.

Florie is one of the great members of EXIM’s 2019 Sub-Saharan Africa Advisory Committee – I was happy to see her at our first committee meeting last week.

The Sub-Saharan Africa Advisory Committee is required by Congress and advises EXIM’s board of directors on our policies and programs that promote our engagement in the region.

EXIM is fortunate to have someone as experienced and knowledgeable as Florie on our Sub-Saharan Africa Advisory Committee.

Thank you for your dedication, Florie, to EXIM and the region.

And, your chairman, Jeff Sturchio, has been a friend of mine for many years.

One of my first trips as Chairman of EXIM was to the continent.

On my way back, we stopped to refuel in Cape Verde, where I met with the Secretary of State for Finance and reaffirmed the importance of the continued economic relationship between our two countries.

On Friday, I will be meeting with the Minister of Finance from Senegal – while next week, I will be at the U.N. General Assembly, interacting with many government ministers from across Africa.

Since 1997, EXIM has had a congressional mandate to increase financing for U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa.

EXIM takes its engagement with Sub-Saharan Africa very seriously – and recognizes the opportunities and challenges Africa presents for U.S. exporters.

I am proud to report to you that since I assumed my role at EXIM in May, two transactions involving the region have already come in front of the board for consideration.

The first was a preliminary commitment to assist in the export of construction equipment to Cameroon.

The second transaction, which will get a final vote of our board of directors next week, involves the financing of an LNG project in Mozambique – which, if approved, would support more than 16-thousand U.S. jobs in at least six states.

And, I look forward to the board considering many more deals in support of U.S. exports to Africa in the years to come.

When I took this position, President Trump told me to “do great things” and to “lead this institution to new heights” so that “the world will see more products stamped with those four beautiful words: Made in the USA.”

And, that’s what I intend to do.

POTUS & “Prosper Africa”

President Trump has been very open about his desire to promote prosperity in Africa.

Last year, the president released a strategy for the continent.

It’s called “Prosper Africa,” – and it’s focused on helping Africa grow economically and thrive in a self-sustainable way.

Supporting economic growth and development in Africa delivers mutual benefits to the United States and our partners in Africa.

Enhancing economic ties with the region not only creates great opportunities for American workers and businesses, it’s also vital in safeguarding the economic independence of African states -- and in helping to protect U.S. national security interests.

With six of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world and more than one billion consumers, Africa is poised to play a pivotal role in the global economy, especially if it can unleash the talents and aspirations of its young and growing population.

Our partnership with Africa is in stark contrast to the approach of others.

China & African Debt-Trap

Great power competitors like China and Russia are rapidly expanding their financial and political influence across Africa – targeting their investments to gain a competitive edge.

China, for example, spent more than $17 billion in foreign direct investment in Africa from 2013 to 2017 – and replaced the U.S. as the continent’s largest trading partner nearly a decade ago.

It’s been widely reported in the press how opaque deals and the strategic use of debt by the Chinese in Africa has put some African countries into what’s often called a “debt trap.”

Angola, for example, is reported to be in debt to the tune of more than $35 billion, with China holding nearly 70% of its external debt.

And, according to the IMF, Djibouti’s external public debt-to-GDP ratio ballooned from 50% in 2014 to 85% in 2016, mainly due to three new loans from China Eximbank.

At the end of 2018, Djibouti’s external public debt to GDP was expected to be 104%.

President Trump is offering the leaders a different path – one paved with high-quality, transparent, inclusive, and sustainable foreign investment projects.

The president is leveraging America’s expanded and modernized tools to provide strong alternatives to state-directed initiatives, like those by China.

EXIM is one of those tools.

Through our financing products, EXIM can facilitate the export of “Made in the USA” goods and services across the continent, bringing American best practices with them.

EXIM & Africa

And, we have a proud history of support for projects in Africa.

We have been partnering with countries across the continent since our first transaction with what is now modern day Angola in 1942 – for the construction of port facilities.

In 1944, EXIM authorized $500,000 to support recovery projects in Ethiopia after World War II.

We’ve supported a lot of U.S. exports to Africa since those early times.

In the past ten years alone, EXIM’s authorizations to sub-Saharan Africa have totaled more than $7 billion.

And these projects have helped improve the lives of millions of people – like the hospital we financed in Ghana, bridges in Zambia, an agricultural project in Tanzania, and a water treatment facility in Cameroon.

The hospital in Ghana is the primary hospital in Accra and is among the most advanced medical facilities in West Africa.

The sale of modular steel bridges to Zambia, made with pride in Pennsylvania, not only helped make the country more accessible, but also supported hundreds of American jobs.

The purchase of U.S. agricultural equipment by a sugar company in Tanzania is not only supporting jobs in North Dakota, Illinois, and Georgia – it’s helping the country reach its goal of being self-sufficient by allowing Tanzania to meet its sugar demand from domestic sources.

And, the potable water treatment project in Cameroon helped alleviate a severe clean water shortage impacting the capital city of Yaounde [Yah-Ewn-Day].

These projects positively impacted millions of people while also supporting thousands of good jobs at home.

And, the rise of the African middle class represents one of the world’s most promising and competitive opportunities for growth.

The United States needs to be involved to realize these opportunities and provide the most innovative and highest-quality goods and services for Africa’s growth and development.

Reauthorization

In order for American know-how to be available to Africans, EXIM must be open and available too.

As you might know, the agency’s charter expires at the end of this month, meaning EXIM needs to be reauthorized by Congress.

We know how important it is for this next reauthorization to provide private industry certainty in the marketplace – and the timeline needed for planning the allocation of capital.

I am engaged with leaders on both sides of the aisle in both the U.S. House and Senate on reauthorizing EXIM – and in making the agency even better by implementing positive reforms to increase transparency and effectiveness.

Conclusion

So there is much work to do – but I am excited for the many great things that are ahead.

To put it simply, we believe that Africa is on the path to a brighter future.

We want to be a partner on that journey.

EXIM has been in Africa for 75 years, but there’s much more opportunity ahead.

It’s as if we’re just getting started.

Thank you again for giving me the chance to speak to you today.

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