story by Kim Souza
Wal-Mart took part during the past week in a three-day U.S.-African Business Forum in Washington, D.C. where business and government leaders discussed investment and economic opportunities.
Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon helped open the forum on a panel moderated by President Bill Clinton on Tuesday (Aug. 5). McMillon along with the CEOs of
Dangote Group, General Electric, The Dow Chemical Company and Shanduka Group. Each identified ways to strengthen their business ties and generate economic growth with African connections.
Over the past decade, six of the 10 fastest growing economies are in Africa, which has already prompted some of country’s largest firms like Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble and General Electric to invest in sub-Saharan regions. Africa’s GDP is expected to rise 6% annually over the next decade and real income has increased more than 30% over the last 10 years, according to economists.
The conference was expected to spur investments from U.S. companies to the tune of $14 billion in deals that would benefit Africa but also enhance U.S. profits of the giving companies.
"I want Africans buying more American products. I want Americans buying more African products," said President Barack Obama, who addressed the forum on Thursday (Aug. 7).
Wal-Mart owns a majority stake in Massmart, a large retailer based in South Africa it purchased for $2.4 billion in 2011 and the retailer continues to invest in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“We’re investing for the long term, empowering African producers through hands-on training and using our global supply chain to connect them with our businesses around the world,” McMillon said. “Everywhere we operate we see that our customers have so much in common. Our customers in Africa want to spend less on everyday needs so they can provide more for their families.”
He also referenced the success of Seven Sisters Wines, a South African wine producer that supplies a range of wines to 500 U.S. stores. Seven Sisters CEO Vivian Kleynhans took part in Massmart's Developing Wine Brands Program, which helps local suppliers grow their business in South Africa and beyond.
On Thursday (Aug. 7) Wal-Mart and its foundation announced a $3 million investment in three farmer training programs in Rwanda, Zambia and Kenya.
As part of Wal-Mart's commitment to train one million small farmers in emerging economies, the Walmart Foundation is working in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to fund training in agricultural best practices for 135,000 farmers, including more than 80,000 women, according to Maggie Sans, vice president of international corporate affairs at Wal-Mart.
Walmart Foundation funding in Rwanda is supporting expansion and providing training to 50,000 farmers on agricultural techniques, emphasizing the production of corn, beans and dairy farming.
Sans said an additional 45,000 farmers will be trained in business skills and leadership in agriculture in Zambi as part of Agribusiness Systems International’s Women's Improved Marketing and Asset Control (WIMAC) project.
In Kenya, Walmart Foundation funding will support the expansion of the One Acre Fund program to improve agricultural practices and market access for 40,000 farmers, which will see them receive high-quality inputs such as seed and fertilizer, as well as post-harvest support. This process is expected to result in a higher crop yield that could double incomes in one planting season, she said.
Sans said women in emerging markets typically invest more than 90% of their income back into their families and communities. She ended by reiterating that Walmart is committed to empowering supply chains in Africa, particularly women farmers.
President Obama outlined a series of steps the U.S. is taking to boost economic ties with Africa.
• As part of the "Doing Business in Africa" campaign, the President announced an additional $7 billion in new financing to promote American exports in Africa.
• U.S. will continue to partner with Africa to build the necessary infrastructure for a flourishing economy. Aiming to bring electricity to more than 60 million homes and business, with a total commitment of more than $26 billion to Power Africa.
• The President called on Congress to renew and enhance the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
• The United States is going to continue to help more Africans trade with each other — because, as the President noted, "the markets with the greatest potential are often the countries right next door."