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Florizelle Liser At The Helm Of Corporate Council on Africa

By Rosalind McLymont

Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), a leading Washington, D.C., business association focused on promoting U.S.-Africa trade and investment, named Florizelle (Florie) Liser, assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa, to be its next president and CEO, effective Jan. 23, 2017. Liser succeeds Stephen Hayes as the third president and CEO of CCA, and its first female and first Black individual in that role since the organization was established in 1993.

CCA, whose membership ranges from small entities to Fortune 100 firms, says it represents an estimated 85 percent of total U.S. private sector investments in Africa, which to date has given it great sway with the continent’s business and political leadership. Liser’s appointment coincides with a CCA in transition, facing an Africa with heightened expectations of its leaders and impatient for greater economic benefit from external commercial relations and government spending.

CCA was forced to cancel its U.S.-Africa Infrastructure Conference, scheduled for December 4-6 in New Orleans, because of poor registration. Less than a year after it acquired the Africa Travel Association – to the consternation of those who view CCA as a big-business broker and Washington insider that will put an unwelcome stamp on the association – it postponed ATA's 41st Annual World Tourism Conference to 2017 from November this year, citing a desire to combine efforts with those of others. 

Hayes explained the postponement in a news release, saying, “Circumstances have come about that present a far greater opportunity to expand the importance and reach of this event by combining our efforts with others in such a way that can have significant impact on US-Africa cooperation in tourism and the sectors that make tourism an important sector on the continent.”     

Liser's leadership will be closely watched as CCA experiences what Hayes earlier this year described as "an important period of transition." While she brings to the table solid expertise and an extensive network on trade and Africa, along with a strong track record of working with the private sector to translate policy into action, Liser is a Washington insider. She has been assistant USTR for Africa since 2003, leading trade and investment policy towards 49 sub-Saharan African nations and overseeing implementation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the cornerstone of U.S. commercial engagement with Africa. She previously served as assistant USTR for Industry, Market Access, and Telecommunications from 2000-2003; senior trade policy advisor in the Office of International Transportation and Trade at the Department of Transportation from 1987-2000; a director in USTR’s Office of GATT Affairs; and as an associate fellow at the Overseas Development Council from 1975-1980.

How far will she – can she – take the transition?

Commenting on her approach to her CCA role, Liser said, “Twenty-first century Africa presents enormous opportunities for businesses looking to take advantage of growing markets across the continent. In my new leadership role at CCA, I look forward to building on CCA's great work to date, and I’m committed to working with U.S. and African businesses and other stakeholders to grow opportunities and strengthen commercial relationships across Africa.”

Born in Panama and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Liser holds a master’s degree in international economics from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, and a bachelor’s international relations and political science from Dickinson College.



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