PRITZKER: I’m here with the President’s Advisory Committee on Doing Business in Africa. What we are trying to understand is where are the opportunities and what are the challenges for doing more business in Africa, and particularly here in Nigeria. What we’ve heard in terms of opportunities is there’s opportunity in infrastructure, in transportation, health care, services, in the ICT sector and others. The challenges we hear about are things like infrastructure investment or access to power, ability to transport goods throughout the country, and the foreign currency exchange challenges. 50% of manufacturing in this country depends on imports. There are some of the challenges that we hear from not only mature businesses but also from entrepreneurs.
AKINYELURE: Some might argue that in some cases, the U.S private sector does not fully understand the African investment landscape, there is also the perception of Africa which a lot of the time is completely different from reality. What would you say we need to do to change the perception that the international community, the investment community has of Africa?
PRITZKER: I think that Africa is understood by some and not by others and I think there’s a big opportunity to promote investment, particularly now. A time when you have a new government here in Nigeria that’s committed to diversifying your economy. That’s an opportunity not only for your President and Vice President but also for your Ministers to develop an economic plan and then go out and sell it around the world. We, in the United States want to help you do that, get the word out.
AKINYELURE: Let’s talk about youth. How exactly can the U.S private sector support African youth entrepreneurs?
PRITZKER: Well the President and I feel very strongly that one of the most important things that could happen in Africa and in other parts of the world where you have a large young population and high youth unemployment is to help young people learn how to start businesses. Today, we spent time with a number of the Tony Elumelu foundation’s young entrepreneurs and what we learn from there is training, access to mentorship, learning how to start a business, learning how to grow a business – these are the biggest needs in Nigeria and throughout the continent. President Obama started the global entrepreneurship summit which is an effort annually to help countries and young entrepreneurs in those countries develop training institutions. The Tony Elumelu foundation sets an example here in Nigeria but the continent needs much more of that and it’s a great opportunity because frankly, entrepreneurs are the future in the United States and in Africa.
AKINYELURE: Now we know that the aim is to provide guidance to the Obama administration on Doing Business in Africa. What advise would you be taking back with you to the States?
PRITZKER: Well during our visit we’ve listened to both American companies that are doing business here in Africa as well as Nigerian companies that want to do more business with American companies, as well as entrepreneurs. In advising the President, we will answer the questions – where are the opportunities, what are the challenges and what are the solutions to some of these challenges. That’s why we are having so many robust conversations with different sectors as well as the Vice President and the President of Nigeria. I don’t want to guess what the President’s Advisory Council would specifically say but I know it would be detailed and robust and that it would be a good action plan for all of us.
AKINYELURE: Now we know that preparations are in place for the US Africa Business Forum. What was achieved in the first forum and what should we expect to see, come through this time around?
PRITZKER: Well first of all in 2014, we did the US-Africa Business Forum in Washington D.C. We had leaders from a number of African countries and hundreds of investors, African investors and American investors. I am so pleased to announce that we are going to do the second US Africa Business Forum with our fabulous partner Bloomberg philanthropies in New York on the margins of the UN General Assembly, so it will be in September and we are very excited about this. Again, we would bring African leaders together with hundreds of American investors who are interested in doing business in Africa. It’s a wonderful opportunity for Nigeria under the new government to really present itself to the people who want to invest in the continent.