Pritzker announces US-Africa business leaders summit

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced Wednesday that top U.S. and African business leaders will meet this summer in an effort to ramp up their economic relationship.

Pritzker told a group of business leaders in Lagos, Nigeria that a forum will be held on the opening day of the Africa Leaders Summit scheduled for Aug. 5-6 in Washington.

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"President Obama has asked me to assemble CEOs from both Africa and the U.S. to discuss ways to deepen commercial relationships and strengthen the presence of U.S. companies in African markets,” she said.

She said the business forum, which is being held by Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies “will increase partnerships in industries such as financing, infrastructure, energy, agriculture, information and communications technology."

“While America’s ties to the African continent are stronger than ever, this forum will help spur even more trade and investment between Africa and the United States."

The two-day summit with leaders from throughout Africa is aimed at building on progress made since the president’s trip last summer, she said.

For her part, Pritzker urged Nigerian leaders to take the needed steps to improve the business environment in the continent's largest economy. 

"Our companies want to do business in countries that follow the rule of law, maintain ethical standards, abide by workplace safety, encourage workforce training, and protect intellectual property,” she said.

“These are the conditions that will increase trust and confidence among international and local business leaders and encourage further investment."

The United States is the largest source of foreign direct investment in Nigeria — amounting to about $8.2 billion in 2012. 

Overall, Africa has seven of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world.

In a separate issue, she reinforced U.S. support for Nigeria as they try to stop extremist groups like Boko Haram.

"For all of the promise here in Africa, situations like this raise serious concerns," she said. "The threat of violence, corruption in government and business, and a lack of trust threaten Nigeria’s continued progress."

Pritzker is in Africa this week leading 20 American companies on an energy trade mission to Ghana and Nigeria, with the goal to promote U.S. exports.

"The bottom line is this," she said.

"We all want American businesses to invest in Africa. We want them to stay in Africa. And we want them to create jobs and prosperity both here and in the United States."