On December 14, 2023, at the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, a remarkable event unfolded. The USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub), together with its five co-investment partners in Côte d’Ivoire, held a learning event themed, “Leading the Path to Sustainable Impact: Lessons from USAID Trade Hub Co-Investment Partnerships,” to spotlight the significance of strategic co-investment partnerships, and share crucial lessons and insights in bolstering economic growth.

The event brought together 40 key stakeholders, including government officials, business leaders, and development partners. Together, they reflected on the achievements and lessons learned from collaborative efforts. Awarded a total of $2.66 million in co-investment grants, the co-investment partners have catalyzed $35.8 million in new private investments, created 940 jobs, and generated $17 million in export sales.

Discussions throughout the event revolved around strategic co-investment partnerships, emphasizing regional and international trade, gender inclusion, and access to finance for export-ready SMEs. U.S. Ambassador Madame Jessica Davis Ba commended the partners for their contributions to the region’s economic growth, emphasizing the power of collaboration. The Ambassador affirmed that the success of the Trade Hub’s partnerships in Côte d’Ivoire was encouraging. She cited EcoCajou as an example of success in Côte d’Ivoire, as they were able to recruit new staff for their new processing plant, of which over 70 are women, produce approximately 50 MT of cashews, and were exploring means to export their product to the United States and Europe. “Working together, we can share profit and create an [economic] hub,” Ambassador Davis Ba noted as she commended EcoCajou as an example of a step towards shared profit.

Ambassador Jessica Davis Ba, U.S. Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire, delivering the opening remarks at the Trade Hub Learning Event. Photo Credit: The Trade Hub

Mr. Benjamin Walker, Director of Market Development at Agence Côte d’Ivoire Export, underscored the government’s focus on exports and the need for partners to facilitate SMEs’ access to the U.S. market.

Representatives from Coliba Africa, EcoCajou, De Heus, Red River Foods, and Injaro SA—along with SMEs under its portfolio—Bio Amandes and ROCFED—shared their experiences in panel discussions. SMEs funded by other Trade Hub partners—AMIRA Global Tech (ShEquity), ANKA, and SITA (CrossBoundary)—also highlighted the positive impact of the co-investment partnerships on innovation, economic growth, and gender inclusion. Key takeaways included shared lessons and insights from successful initiatives within the Trade Hub, providing practical insights for overcoming challenges. The interactive sessions fostered optimism about the future of trade, export, and investment in West Africa, celebrating achievements and encouraging collaboration.

Group snapshot featuring speakers from the panel on “Enhancing Regional and Global Trade for Export Growth.” From left to right: Lotfo Kourdali, PPP Director, Trade Hub; Abi Monnet Innocent, Eco Cajou; Mark Hop, De Heus; Genesis Ehigmebe, Coliba Africa; Alice Mainguy, Red River Food; and Mr. Pythagore Legbre Charles Guigui, USAID. Photo Credit: The Trade Hub.

In closing remarks, Anne Bisso, Director of the Economic Growth Division at USAID/Côte d’Ivoire, emphasized the event’s purpose as a learning opportunity for all stakeholders. “The idea of a learning event is to create opportunities to include all stakeholders. We are taking notes of all the ideas and will continue to work in the sector and define how this will look in the future. This initiative will not disappear as it is a political will from the U.S. government.”

Interaction between Ann Bisso, Economic Growth Office Director at USAID, and Lotfi Kourdali, PPP Director at Trade Hub, before the upcoming panel session. Photo Credit: The Trade Hub.

The USAID-funded Trade Hub was showcased as a catalyst for positive change, setting the stage for continued collaboration and growth in West Africa.