Ominous start to Trump era as US-Africa investment conference cancelled

Thursday November 24 2016

A television displays news footage of US President elect Donald Trump near a screen displaying market activity. AFP PHOTO | DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS


The association representing most US businesses operating in Africa has cancelled a conference on investing in Africa's infrastructure due to lack of interest in the planned three-day event.

The December 4-6 conference sponsored by the Corporate Council on Africa was to have taken place in the southern US city of New Orleans at a time of widespread uneasiness regarding President-elect Donald Trump's intentions toward Africa.

“Despite a stellar program with top-notch speakers, registration for the conference has not reached a minimum that we believe is necessary to justify the time and effort of our speakers,” council head Stephen Hayes announced earlier this week.

Mr Hayes did not suggest a reason for the poor response to an event planned long in advance of the November 8 US presidential election.

Carla Battle, director of special events at the Corporate Council on Africa, did not respond directly to a follow-up question from the Nation Media Group as to whether Mr Trump's victory might have discouraged participation in the conference.


Ms Battle was specifically asked if the cancellation reflected suspicion that the Trump administration will not pay much attention to Africa.

“We are surprised and unsure of why we did not get the minimum required” to hold the conference, Ms Battle responded by email.

Scheduling and venue

She suggested that the poor rate of registration may have reflected the event's scheduling and venue.

The planned eighth annual US-Africa Infrastructure Conference was set to take place later in the year than any of the previous events, Ms Battle noted.

“This is the first time that it’s been outside of the Washington, DC area,” she wrote.

“Whether these reasons apply or not, and whether there are additional reasons, we don’t know yet,” Ms Battle added.

The council had said on November 16 that it expected “more than 400 business executives, investors and government leaders” to take part in what it billed as “the first and only conference in the United States focused solely on US-Africa Infrastructure.”

The gathering would consider “how to unleash the continent’s Next Wave of Growth,” a council brochure stated.

Among the advertised topics was a review of the Obama administration's Africa performance and “challenges for the next administration.”

The Power Africa programme, intended to bring electricity to millions of homes in countries including Kenya, was also on the conference agenda, along with sessions on investment opportunities in transportation, clean water and the implications of “Africa's offshore and boundary disputes.”

Retired Gen William Ward, former head of the US Africa Command, was to have moderated a session on “safety and security for large cities.”