#EngageAmerica on Innovative Solutions to doing business in Africa

During a recent trip to California, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield highlighted how governments, civil society, and private sector are creating innovative solutions to some of Africa’s toughest challenges. Ahead of the 7th Annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) taking place June 22-24 at Stanford University, Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield visited Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and Los Angeles to engage with Americans on the emerging opportunities throughout Africa. 

A key focus of the trip was supporting women in business and technology. Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield stressed that supporting, mentoring, and partnering with women business owners and entrepreneurs is central to long-term economic growth and development in any country. By sharing examples from Mauritius to Kenya to Ghana, she demonstrated that when women entrepreneurs succeed, they invest back into their businesses, communities, and families. Programs like the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), and the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) are creating opportunity for Africans and helping ensure that young and seasoned entrepreneurs alike can take advantage of investment, partnership, networking, and mentorship opportunities. Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield highlighted these programs during her meeting at the Institute of International Education with TechWomen Mentors. These mentors are women who volunteer their time and expertise to support global TechWomen Emerging Leaders while they are here in the United States. 

Other stops on the trip included a roundtable at the World Affairs Council of Northern California and public events at two bustling cultural centers, the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco and the Museum of African American Art in Los Angeles. At each stop, Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield heard from a globally-engaged audience full of optimism and hope for Africa’s future. Her exchanges with the audiences highlighted the importance of investing in Africa and the ways that government, businesses, and civil society can elevate Africa as the future frontier for business and technology, thus building up the talent pool of young African entrepreneurs.

Another central focus of the trip was soliciting input and engagement from diaspora communities in the United States. These communities are uniquely positioned to contribute to their home countries and advance business opportunities on the Continent. In Silicon Valley, the African Diaspora Network, in conjunction with Singularity University, hosted Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield for a conversation on Women, Innovation, and Technology in Sub-Saharan Africa. Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield encouraged deeper diaspora engagement and advocacy, and the need to challenge myths about the difficulty of doing business in many African countries. 

This visit to California was a model for the State Department’s recently launched Engage America public outreach initiative. Engage America aims to encourage an ongoing dialogue between our diplomats and the American people about the important value of diplomacy as well as its tangible impact on their lives right here at home. We’re excited about this this renewed emphasis on government-to-people engagement, and we look forward to continuing to create opportunities to connect people in cities across the country with diplomats and other foreign affairs professionals in support of Engage America.

About the Author: Karen Richardson serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

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Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield addresses the African Diaspora Network at Singularity University in Silicon Valley, California [Photo courtesy of African Diaspora Network].
Posted by Karen Richardson
June 13, 2016

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