If you want to do business in Africa, don’t go there! At least not until you’ve attended the 2009 US-Africa Business Summit in Washington, DC in late September. At that event you’ll meet over 2,000 people including business leaders, ministers, cabinet members, and possibly even the President of the United States. Then you need to join the organization responsible for the summit: The Corporate Council on Africa. Now you are ready to go to do business in Africa!
Today, we have Sandy Dhuyvetter of Travel Talk Radio conducting an interview with Stephen Hayes, president and CEO of The Corporate Council on Africa.
Sandy Dhuyvetter: We have with us somebody that’s been on the show quite often, and I can’t tell you the amount of traffic that he is bringing to the web site. You are all very interested in Africa, and you are all very interested in The Corporate Council on Africa, and we are all very pleased to have back with us the president and CEO, Stephen Hayes. He is in Washington, DC just back from Kenya and Ethiopia and, by the way, I’ve heard he just had dinner with Hillary Clinton, so we will quiz him on that, too. Thank you, Stephen, for joining us again.
Stephen Hayes: Always happy to Sandy; it’s a pleasure.
Sandy: It sure is great to have you on the program. You have realy done a great job on educating us and entertaining us actually, too, on Africa. There’s so much to talk about. This continent is huge, and I was just looking at our home page at TravelTalkRADIO.com. We played a “Best of” show not too long ago and, sure enough, you were right there on the top of the chart. So you are mentioned, I think you’ve got 3 different segments on the homepage so, congratulations!
Hayes: Well, that’s great!
Sandy: Yeah, and I also want to say that we are going to have a transcript of this so if you are interested in reading it, we are going to have that, too. By the way, welcome back home. You were just at Kenya in Ethiopia?
Hayes: Right, I was over at the annual AGOA forum, which is the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. We’ve been a key part of that; we headed the private sector forum for that. The AGOA forum is actually a meeting of ministers, all trade ministers from throughout Africa, as well as a high-level US delegation. In this case, the US delegation was headed by Hillary Clinton.
Sandy: And so, you were there, and I heard you had dinner with her?
Hayes: Well, we had dinner with her before she left. She had called ten, I suppose, advisors or whatever you want to call it, to have dinner with her before she left in Washington over at the State Department. So, we had a two-hour dinner to discuss her trip to Africa and the issues that each one of us thought should come to fore while she was there and that she really needed to address. So, it was a very good dinner, and I was also lucky enough to have the seat next to her. So, it was an excellent dinner.
Sandy: Nice, and you found her charming?
Hayes: Yes, I did. I found her very, very personable. I understood the level of support she has, and I think she’s going to make a great Secretary of State.
Sandy: Seems like that. You know, what I find so interesting [is] we had President Obama just lately in Ghana. We have, of course, our Secretary of State Clinton in Kenya. There seems to be a lot of attention to Africa right now.
Hayes: Well, I think there should be for all kinds of reasons. The Secretary of State went to seven countries, and I know she said that she was far more committed to Africa than even before she started the trip, after she came back. There is certainly the energy needs. Everybody knows that, well, most people know, that Africa is going to supply about 25 percent of our energy needs. So, that makes Africa important to us just economically. But, I think given the economy and the challenges that we have in our own economy now, I think that Africa offers one of the best new markets anywhere in the world, and I think a greater US-Africa business relationship would help both the continent of Africa and the 53 countries on it, as well as the United States.
Sandy: You know you said 25 percent of the energy is going to come from Africa. Is that to the US?
Stephen Hayes: To the US. That’s right.
Sandy: Very interesting. How will that be? Will that be in solar or…?
Hayes: No, I mean in terms of oil. Our oil needs are… 25 percent is coming from Africa. And so, that makes that supply vital. It’s possible that that could grow over time, too. Particularly, also, if we go to natural gas. Africa has enormous resources in reserves in natural gas. So, we are going to be dependent on Africa for our energy needs for several decades.
Sandy: You know, I realized when I said “solar,” I don’t know how [one] can transfer solar, but certainly solar energy would be huge there, too, it seems.
Hayes: In terms of Africa’s own energy needs, there is already quite a bit of solar energy experimentation. It’s still difficult to get the price down for solar energy as compared to other more traditional forms, but I think it’s got to be a part of the future, especially in Africa. So yes, there is a great opportunity for those people who are investing in solar energy, particularly as it regards to Africa. But Africa’s energy needs are going to be enormous as well, so to be able to buy energy, they are going to have to sell energy in terms of [a] traditional supply of oil, and then invest in other forms of energy for their own consumption.
Sandy: When you think in those terms, within ten years, the continent could be very strong, couldn’t they?
Hayes: Well, I think economically it’s a continent that just has some enormous potential, in terms of almost anything. In terms of your own traditional audience of the travel industry, it’s just beyond enormous the opportunities [that are] there in any country. Ethiopia has great untapped tourism potential and so forth. The economic potential of Africa is enormous, but they’ve still got to overcome quite a few obstacles to meet that potential.
Sandy: True. We work a lot with Ethiopian Airlines, and I don’t know if you have had the opportunity to fly them yet, but my hat goes off to them They have really kept that country together, making and keeping routes going with not a whole lot of passengers, just in making sure that the open skies at least in their world, stay open. Do you have trouble when you travel across to Africa having to come in and out?
Hayes: Well, not really, since I have been going to the main ports, but if you are trying to go [from] one country to another, it’s far more difficult. I’m glad you said what you did about Ethiopian Airlines; I think they are one of the best ones in Africa. Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airlines, and South African Airways are all members of The Corporate Council, and I think all of them are critically well run, but I think especially, of late, Ethiopian Airlines is just a very well-managed airlines. I think they just won a big prize in London…
Sandy: Oh good! If you have been to Africa, you know exactly what I mean. It tears at your heart strings. It’s something that just gets to you. It grows on you. You start loving it, and there’s just no turning back. I’ve had my eighth trip to Africa. And we are talking to Stephen Hayes. Stephen, you must’ve had what, 50, 100 trips to Africa now?
Hayes: It’s probably close to 50, that’s right, certainly this decade.
Sandy: That’s amazing. Stephen Hayes is the president and CEO of [The] Corporate Council on Africa. He’s in Washington DC. He just got back from Kenya and Ethiopia. We’ve been talking a little bit about, not only his trip there, but some of the things that are going on in Africa, not only in tour and travel, but in all industries and opportunities [that are] amazing. Now, you are getting ready for the big summit and it only happens every two years, so you must be very excited about it.
Hayes: Well, excited is one way to put it. Nervous, apprehensive, yes. It’s the major US-Africa business meeting of any kind and we expect, because it’s in Washington DC this time, we expect about 2,000 participants – business people from throughout the United States and Africa. We’ve already had two Cabinet Secretaries confirmed for this: the Secretary of Commerce, the US trade rep. I am very optimistic that we will have the Secretary of State and, hopefully, we will have the President of the United States also here. We have about ten African presidents already confirmed for this, as well. So, it’s a major program both economically, politically, and socially, as well. It’s the key business event in terms of US-Africa economic relations. If anyone is interested [in] investing in Africa in a range of areas, be it tourism, energy, infrastructure, health, any number of sectors, then they really need to be at this summit.
Sandy: Now, this is going to be at the end of September, correct?
Hayes: Right. September 29-October 1. But, this is actually going to be a summit week in many ways. Before the summit on the 28th and 29th, we are doing separate what we call “no-compete” workshops: Doing Business in Ethiopia, Doing Business in Nigeria, and Doing Business in Angola. Half day workshops. They’ll be free to anybody that’s paid to come into the summit. So, those are going to be important and, afterwards, we are having by invitation-only bilateral dialogues with South Africa and Nigeria. During the summit itself, we will have 64 workshops, a number of plenaries and, of course, quite a bit of major speeches from what we hope will be the President of the United States, but certainly from his senior cabinet level, as well as other African heads of state.
Sandy: If you were a company outside of The Corporate Council in Africa, and you could see that the opportunity was very much in Africa, what sector would you probably put your finger on?
Hayes: I think that the agro-business sector and the tourism sector [are] two areas where American companies can really benefit [and] where they also have a comparative advantage. Every country in Africa needs stronger agro-business sectors. Every country in Africa can produce agriculture, and we need to strengthen that trade relationship, and I think there’s a real role and need for US agro-business. I think tourism is another area where it’s just unlimited potential, country by country. What really needs to happen though, is that the infrastructure needs to be built to make tourism work and to be able to get crops to market and that’s one of the major challenges of Africa, is infrastructure and the lack of it, and a lot of our summit will be concentrating on developing that infrastructure.
Sandy: You know, it’s so interesting when you mentioned Angola, because I was in Angola and, of course, they are out of a 30-year war maybe four or five years ago. So, they are still rather fresh, but while I was there, we had professors in from Hawaii that were talking and training some of the farmers on growing pineapple, and it was very interesting to see that. And then they had another group there that was turning the land mines into grape vines and they called it “mines to vines.” A lot of things like that happening, huh?
Hayes: Well, Angola is one of the countries that [are] really booming, and its no accident that the Secretary of State had that on her itinerary, also. It’s a huge country with only 13 million people, so there is almost unlimited land to be able to use, in particularly, in agriculture. Also, Angola is going to be our largest producer of oil in Africa, passing Nigeria before long. It’s enormously important to the United States and it’s just a country with great potential that’s beginning, just starting, to do things the right way.
Sandy: Wow, very interesting. You know, we became a member [of The Corporate Council on Africa] not too long ago, and I am just blown away at what I get as far as information every day, Stephen you’ve got a great staff.
Hayes: I do. I’m very proud of this staff. I like to tell the people in Washington [that] I’ll put this staff [up] against anyone. It’s a very dedicated staff. It’s relatively young with very talented [people] and really very committed to the US-Africa relationship. I think I’m very fortunate. [I have] two Rhodes Scholars on staff as well, and so it’s a smart staff.
Sandy: It certainly is. And now you also put out, and this is for members, and we will talk about membership, but I wanted just to kind of tease it by saying that every day we get The Corporate Council on Africa daily news, and it is spread across the whole continent. And every day, it is filled with news. You do a great job on that, too.
Hayes: Thank you. Well, the Daily Clips just concentrates solely on business and as you know, Sandy, you don’t see any of that in newspapers. There’s an enormous amount of business deals being done in Africa that this country just doesn’t know about. And, I think that our Daily Clips have become the best source on business information on Africa in this country.
Sandy: It is the best. I want [to] also talk, too, [about the fact that] you do video conferencing. Is it tomorrow that we have the video conference for the ambassador for Ghana?
Hayes: It’s the 28th, next Thursday, I think it is. But yeah, every month we do a live video conference for our members with a selected US ambassador in Africa. It’s an off-the-record discussion on issues that our members may have and also what is going on in that country, and it helps our members make better investment decisions
Sandy: Absolutely. Lets talk a little bit about members and who can become a member, and do you have to be a member to be at the summit that we have been just talking about [that is] at the end of September?
Hayes: Let’s start in reverse. No, you don’t have to be a member. You just have to be able to pay. The members, obviously, get lower rates at such events, but the summit is open to all who are genuinely interested in Africa and who are genuinely interested in investment opportunities. If you are serious about Africa, you can save an enormous amount of money by going to the summit. And, I say that because, for less than an airplane ticket to Africa, you can meet any number of, almost [an] unlimited number of African Leaders, African Ministers, decision-makers, business people, [and] potential partners from America. Only though, if you are serious, and then if you are, I think it is the best decision you can make.
Sandy: You know, when you talk about the ministers coming, I mean, these people are cabinet-level people that will be there, and I would imagine you can network with them personally.
Hayes: Well, yeah you do. Any normal business person can sit there [and] talk with one of the government ministers. Yeah, they are cabinet. That is the definition of an African government minister is a cabinet-level member. And, we will have at least 100 ministers from a variety of areas and countries and sectors. Ministries of Trade will certainly be there, Ministers of Health, Ministers of Tourism, and so forth.
Sandy: Amazing. Let’s talk a little bit about membership, is there a criteria that you look at for becoming a member?
Hayes: Well, basically, if you are a business and you have an office in the United States, a physical presence. In other words, you don’t have to be a US company, per se, but if you have a physical presence in the United States. For instance, Standard Bank of Africa is a member of CCA. It’s the largest bank in Africa, South Africa-based, but it has offices in the United States, so it can join CCA, and it has. So, membership is for businesses. I suppose an individual can declare himself a business, but he’d still have to pay the same membership rate as any other business.
Sandy: Besides getting the clips, the CCA clips every day, and the video conferencing, is there anything else you can add to the membership?
Hayes: We do over 100 events a year. We have a security working group. You don’t have to be in Washington to attend that. You can do that by teleconference or call-in and be there. But, we have a security working group, we have a working group on infrastructure that meets monthly, we have a health industry meeting every month, [and] so forth, [and] conferences. We also have research services. If a member needs research on a particular market area, then we have staff that will write that paper out, [and] will work on them and advise them. Even for the largest of companies, they often have a difficulty getting meetings with people. We will set up [for example], if you need a meeting with the Nigerian Ambassador, and you have got a good case for it, then we will set up that meeting. The ambassadors tend to respect us and listen to us, and we can get in a lot easier than most companies for such meetings. If you need advice on going to country, you need advice on who to meet, we will get that for you, as well. Otherwise, by not joining CCA, and trying to do it on your own, you can go to, say, any country and not have the slightest idea of how it works, who to see, [or] where to go. You waste an enormous amount of time and an enormous amount of money. I say that if you are interested in Africa, investing in Africa, a membership in CCA is one of the best bargains you can have. But if you are not going to be us[ing] us, though, you’re wasting your money. So, if somebody joins us, they have to be committed to using us.
Sandy: What I love about it [is that] it’s like having a partner without having to share the equity.
Hayes: Well, I think it is. It’s an extended staff. It’s a lot cheaper than you could pay a single staff person to do what 30 of our staff can do for you.
Sandy: Absolutely. You are absolutely right. Are you going to Africa again before the summit in late September?
Hayes: No. I’m not going to be traveling anywhere now. I’m not even taking a vacation until after the summit.
Sandy: Well, I was going to ask you, every time I’ve talked to you, you have [just] been to Africa and these are not short trips. I mean, it’s much bigger than going to London or to Paris. This is huge. As a traveler, and I just wanted to get in your head on that part of it, any kind [of] advice you might have for travelers that are going to Africa?
Hayes: Well, you know, be patient. That would be the number one advice. The airports aren’t the same quality for instance. They are a little more crowded. You just have to be patient but also, again, prepare in advance. Make sure you have somebody to meet you at the airport, not so much for safety reasons, but for reasons of ease and being able to move around a lot more. So, you need to make preparations more. You can’t just fly into a city easily in Africa the same way you can fly into London and poke your way around. It’s more exciting if you do, of course, but it may be more excitement than you want or need.
Sandy: Right, right, and if you are there for business, you want to get to business, so that’s the other aspect of it as well.
Hayes: That’s right, that’s right.
Sandy: Well, as always, we’ve really enjoyed our time with you. Can you believe it goes so quickly?
Hayes: I have as well.
Sandy: Yes, we have, too, and we will get you on against next month. We are looking forward to being with you in Washington DC in late September at the summit. We invite everyone that is listening to take a look, come on over to the website, link in to This Week’s Program, you’ll see a picture of Stephen, a link in to the CCA, [The] Corporate Council on Africa and, of course, you will get more information on this wonderful summit. And it happens only every two years, so don’t be putting that off. You’ve got to attend it with us. Thank you, Stephen. We will talk to you soon.
Hayes: Ok, thanks Sandy.
Sandy: Thank you very much.