The Inaugural US Business in Africa Awards and Conference 2022

10th November 2022


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US businesses that operate in Africa and US-Africa trade relations recently came under the spotlight at the inaugural US Business in Africa Awards (USBAA) ceremony and conference.

The Awards, which celebrated US businesses in Africa that are contributing to Africa’s development, took place at the Hilton Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg on Friday 28 October.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi hailed the Awards as an “auspicious occasion marking the beginning of this pioneering initiative dedicated to enhancing Africa-US economic relations through a competitive process. It is a collaborative and innovative initiative that brings together the private sector, policymakers, and academia in the understanding that no one sector of society can fill the large investment gaps that Africa needs.”

Guests included the US Mission to South Africa representatives, the Minister Counsellor for Commercial Affairs for Sub-Saharan Africa, Ms Cynthia Griffin and the US Consul General in Johannesburg Mr Vincent Spera; the Resident Representative for the United Nations Development Programme in South Africa, Dr Ayodele Odusola; representatives of African and US businesses, and representatives of African and US business schools, among others.

The winning businesses were announced as:

Large Category

Gold - Massmart Holdings Limited

Silver - Alistair Group

Bronze - Kimberly Clark of South Africa

Medium Category

Gold - Honeywell

Silver - Fayus

Bronze - NBA Africa

ESG Award

Massmart Holdings Limited

Following the Awards, thought leaders from across the continent and the US came together for constructive dialogue at the inaugural US Business in Africa Conference which took place at Wits Business School (WBS) on Saturday 29 October.

Under the umbrella theme “US businesses doing well by doing good in Africa”, the conference will become an annual event co-hosted by the African Centre for the Study of the United States (ACSUS) at Wits and Wits Business School. Several other partners from the industry, the public sector and development agencies, as well as other US and African business schools, have joined forces to ensure the longevity and ongoing impact of the initiative.

“We initiated this programme to highlight the importance of the role that US businesses can play in investing responsibly in Africa and contributing meaningfully to her economic development. There are thousands of US businesses on the continent, and yet there is no Africa-wide initiative focused on highlighting the impact of American companies, recognition of excellence for US businesses, and their contributions,” explains Dr Bob Weseka, Deputy Director at ACSUS.

In opening the conference, Professor Vilakazi commented on the urgent need to deliver on the three overarching policies governing trade and investment in Africa: the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the US African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

“These are lofty ideals which need to be operationalised in Africa. The USBAA initiative is an important step to towards enhancing US-African economic engagement and influencing policy across the gamut of business, the public sector and academia.”

Panel discussion topics included the opportunities for Africa to participate in global trade presented through the AfCFTA, questions arising from the expiry of AGOA in 2025, mainstreaming environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles in Africa, and cultural and language competencies for doing business in Africa.

The conference closed with the launch of a corporate ambassadorship and case study project.

“The initiative does not stop with the recognition of excellence. It is also about knowledge creation, and we will be using the data derived from the judging processes for corporate ambassadorship, case studies and public engagement opportunities. This will give a platform to the winning companies to share their experiences and tell their stories,” says Professor Mills Soko, programme director of the USBAA conference.

Partners in this initiative include the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan, the Centre for African Studies at Howard University, Good Governance Africa (GGA), the Pan-African School of Policy Innovation,, African Business Group, the Centre on African Philanthropy & Social Investment (CAPSI) at WBS, the US Embassy in South Africa, as well as Strathmore University Business School and Lagos Business School.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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