With United States foreign policy in turmoil amid countless White House scandals and a demoralized State Department, Africa’s role in the current U.S. foreign policy agenda remains a mystery. Not once since he took office has President Donald Trump even mentioned Africa, much less provided a detailed overview of America’s security, aid and investment strategies on the continent. With the president’s attention focused primarily on Russia, Syria and North Korea, America’s Africa policy appears adrift.
China, in contrast, seemingly remains highly engaged in Africa. While there have been few, if any, major announcements by the White House regarding Africa, just this week alone China unveiled a new transportation training program at five African universities, deployed its first detachment of sailors to a new military outpost in Djibouti and announced yet more infrastructure development deals.
As these two major powers take visibly divergent paths in their approach to Africa, where one appears to be highly engaged and the other seemingly becoming irrelevant, what impact will this narrative have on U.S. business in Africa?
While that story may play well in the news, it’s not an accurate reflection of reality according to Aubrey Hruby, a Washington, D.C.-based Africa scholar and investment advisor. Hruby contends that the Chinese are not as organized and effective in Africa as is widely believe and, more importantly, that U.S. business has a number of distinct competitive advantages in Africa over its Chinese and international rivals.
In a June article published in Newsweek, Hruby laid out her case as to why the U.S. is not only relevant in Africa but can potentially dominate key economic sectors. “Rather than competing in areas like transportation infrastructure or manufacturing, where they are at a competitive disadvantage, American firms need to double down in the sectors in which the U.S. dominates globally—consulting, finance, data, entertainment and agricultural technology, ” she wrote.
- Newsweek: Business Advice for U.S. Companies in Africa: Do What You Do Best by Aubrey Hruby
- Real Clear World: China and Africa: Changing the Narrative in 2017 by Aubrey Hruby
- The New Yorker: Donald Trump, Lost in Africa by Alexis Okeowo
Aubrey Hruby is an adviser to investors and companies doing business in Africa. She is a Senior Fellow at the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council and the co-author of the award-winning book,The Next Africa (Macmillan, July 2015).
Aubrey has a successful track record in African market entry, project/deal identification, investment facilitation, and experience in the infrastructure, energy, agribusiness, financial services, FMCG, healthcare, and textiles/apparel sectors. She is Managing Partner of Noveni Advisors and a co-founder of AXN.
Aubrey served as the Managing Director of the Whitaker Group, where she helped facilitate over $2 billion in investment and capital flows to Africa. Aubrey has consulted extensively in 20+ African markets (including Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and South Africa). She has worked with Fortune 500 companies to design and implement successful investment and market entry strategies and advises the US Chamber of Commerce’s Africa Division. Over the past ten years, Aubrey has regularly led CEO-level delegations to African countries and coordinated presidential visits to the United States.