Washington, DC, USA/Johannesburg, South Africa
An innovative study announced today in Johannesburg will look at two sets of opinions about why multinationals are not investing rapidly in Africa. The first part of the groundbreaking study will interview top executive of US-based multinationals to ask about their reservations on investing in Africa while the second part will put those findings to policy-makers like ministers of finance and planning and to senior civil servants on the continent as well as leaders of international organisations involved on the continent. The study is being conducted by Baird’s Communication Management Consultants (Baird’s CMC), an international communication management consultancy in partnership with the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC. If successful, this study will be the first in a series of future studies by Baird’s CMC about the investment and policy relationships between the developing world and its potential investment partners.
The study could be a first step to understanding the policy changes required to normalise US investments in Africa, says Daeman Harris, the Vice President of International Division, Middle East and Africa, of the US Chamber of Commerce. “We want to get to the bottom of the issues that either encourage or dissuade US investors from the continent. This unprecedented study will articulate both the complexities and opportunities seen by the US business community as they weigh decisions to enter into African markets. We want this survey to serve as a point of departure for a new and dynamic dialogue between both US and African entrepreneurs and their government counterparts,” Harris says.
The study will engage US business leaders on the reasons that have encouraged them to invest in Africa or the things that have put them off. It will use confidential interviews with guarantees of no attribution in order to ensure the information obtained moves beyond public rhetoric. The study framework is therefore designed to bring to the surface private corporate investment conversations that rarely see the light of day in public fora, and then to engage African policy-makers about these concerns and whether the policy changes required to satisfy the concerns and conditions for improving investment from US multinationals, are likely or even realistic. All the interviews will be conducted by a panel of senior, experienced interviewers.
An aim of the study partnership is also to bridge the knowledge gap in the global discourse between governments on how to increase trade and investment in the continent. “The notion of an African century has become almost axiomatic in any discussion about trade, investment, development and good governance on the continent, but it has not yet translated into sustained investment growth across the continent,” says Mark Chataway, co-chairman of Baird’s CMC.
Policymakers often get sugar-coated views in public meetings, according to Daeman Harris. “The goal is to contribute to economic growth in Africa, by helping policy-makers to focus on frank private views, as opposed to polite public conversations. We hope that the outcome of this study will be a more productive engagement by US business and African policy-makers to improve investment in Africa,” he said.
Harris believes that international investment and trade is redefining the global economic landscapes, but that the commercial relationship between the US and Africa has yet to develop into a truly successful partnership. He hopes that “independent intelligence on the opportunities in Africa and the many, different obstacles that hinder its progress could begin to transform this partnership”. Francois Baird, co-chairman of Baird’s CMC thinks that the research will identify some misconceptions that cause barriers and produce surprises. “We will be considering systematically the attitudes of African leaders — both policy-makers and decision-makers — to addressing these barriers and perceptions. Usually, people just try to discern their responses by trawling through speeches,” he said. The US Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation, representing more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors and regions. It includes hundreds of associations, thousands of local chambers and more than 100 American Chambers of Commerce in 91 countries.
Baird’s CMC is an international communication management consulting firm, operating in 9 countries with 25 partners employing over 400 people. Baird’s CMC is represented in Washington D.C., New York, London, Newport in Wales, Paris, Frankfurt, Sao Paulo, Johannesburg, Harare, New Delhi, Mumbai and Amman in Jordan. Its global research practice has interview panel members in 42 countries.
The results of the study will be published and discussed in a public forum with senior business and government leaders. The aim will be to foster convergence between what African politicians and policy-makers are willing, and able, to do and what US business needs to invigorate its investment in Africa.