Witney Schneidman

Witney Schneidman

Senior International Advisor for Africa

Witney Schneidman has nearly 40 years of experience working across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Drawing on his experience in the State Department, the World Bank, think tanks and his own consulting practice, Dr. Schneidman, a non-lawyer, has advised energy, technology, consumer and health companies, among others, on projects in more than 30 African countries. He has also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs, and on the Africa advisory committees in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and at the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

Dr. Schneidman provides strategic advice on the varied political, economic, social and regulatory issues that are critical to companies’ success in Africa. This includes issues related to Corporate Social Responsibility, compliance, market entry and risk mitigation. He played a leading role in the passage and recent reauthorization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act and was a delegate to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit co-hosted by President Obama during his visit to Kenya.

Dr. Schneidman chairs Covington’s Africa Practice Group and is a senior member of the firm’s Public Policy Practice Group, the International Strategy Group and the International Trade and Finance Group.

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Covington’s Ability to Help Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa

 With African governments increasingly taking strong actions to impede the spread of the COVID-19 virus – including in a number of jurisdictions, imposing full lockdowns – we are able to provide assistance to our clients, financial institutions, developmental finance organizations, companies and organizations on the continent. We are available to get on a call at … Continue Reading

Coronavirus: Potential Implications for Africa

The Coronavirus (hereinafter “COVID-19”) is upending lives around the world—equally in developed and developing countries. Some are already affected by the deadly impact of COVID-19 (e.g. China, Italy, and France), while others’ lives have been altered due to efforts taken to “flatten the curve,” to ensure hospital systems are not overrun with patients in need … Continue Reading

Top Ten Issues to Watch in Africa in 2019

Africa’s Growth Prospects. Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow at 3.8 percent in 2019, which is a significant improvement over last year’s regional growth rate of 2.6 percent. Excluding the continent’s largest economies (Angola, Nigeria and South Africa), which are growing collectively at an average of 2.5 percent, the aggregate growth rate … Continue Reading

Congress takes the lead on U.S.-Africa Policy

While the nation has been transfixed by the confirmation hearings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh for a seat on the Supreme Court, Congress passed significant legislation on Africa that has attracted virtually no attention. On October 3, the Senate passed the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act, better known as the Build Act. President … Continue Reading

The Heat: Forum on China-Africa Cooperation wraps up in Beijing

Witney Schneidman, Chair of Covington’s Africa Practice, recently participated in a China Global television show to assess the outcome of the 7th FOCAC meeting in Beijing that was held last week between Chinese leaders and more than 50 African leaders. LINK This post can also be found on CovAfrica, the firm’s blog on legal, regulatory, political … Continue Reading

Smart Power: Investing in Youth Leadership and Development

“So, young people…my message to you is simple, keep believing, keep marching, keep building, keep raising your voice. Every generation has the opportunity to remake the world.” -President Barack Obama, 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, South Africa Of the many statistics that define Africa’s complexity, this may be the most important one: With 200 million … Continue Reading

The 2018 AGOA Forum: A turning point for US-Africa commercial relations?

The 2018 AGOA Forum—named for the African Growth and Opportunity Act passed in 2000 and extended three years ago to 2025—could be a turning point in U.S.-African commercial relations. AGOA abolished import duties on more than 1,800 products manufactured in eligible countries sub-Saharan Africa (those with established or making continuous progress with market-based economy, rule of … Continue Reading

Competing in Africa: China, the European Union, and the United States

Given recent developments in the global economy, especially Brexit and the Trump administration’s “America First” policy, it is worth assessing how Africa’s three largest commercial partners—China, the European Union, and the United States—are likely to impact the region in the near future as it relates to trade and investment trends. The China-in-Africa story may be … Continue Reading

Ten Key Issues to Watch in Africa in 2018

 In this blog, Covington’s Africa practice  highlights ten key issues to watch in Africa in 2018. U.S. Policy: The derogatory remarks that President Trump made about Africans and Haitians, which he denies having said, create a negative image for the U.S. across the region as the year begins. Nevertheless, the administration will push forward on … Continue Reading

Ramaphosa’s Victory: Progress or Paralysis?

The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as president of the African National Congress (ANC), and now the leading contender to become South Africa’s next president, was hailed as a “humbling rebuke” of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and a stark rejection of his policies, which have led to anemic economic growth, widespread corruption, and rising frustration in one … Continue Reading

Post-AGOA: Moving to a Reciprocal US-Africa Trade Arrangement

The global trade environment is rapidly changing and already affecting the U.S.-Africa trade relationship. Indeed, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was not intended to be permanent. The program was designed as a stepping stone to a more mature trade relationship between the U.S. and the continent. AGOA’s expiration date in 2025 may seem … Continue Reading

Trump and Africa: Imagining a Positive Legacy

The contours of Trump’s Africa policy are emerging, although key appointments, such as the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, have yet to be made. On February 13, President Trump had telephone conversations with President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa—his first with leaders from sub-Saharan Africa. The calls, … Continue Reading

Ghana’s New President: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Nana Akufo-Addo, the 72-year-old leader of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), was elected Ghana’s president on December 9 by a margin of 1 million votes, affirming the country’s status as a leading democracy on the continent. The peaceful election  supports former assistant secretary of state for African affairs and election observer Ambassador Johnnie Carson’s recent … Continue Reading

Donald Trump and Africa

For Africa, at stake in this election of Donald Trump is the strong bipartisan consensus in Congress that has been the cornerstone of U.S. policy toward the continent for the last three administrations. This consensus, supported by Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, was predicated on the notion that Africa has opportunities worth U.S. attention and … Continue Reading

Investing in solar energy

Solar energy is a very good and important investment in sub-Saharan Africa. The energy is cheap, clean and relatively easy to install. It is also very beneficial to consumers.  As Andy Herscowitz, the coordinator for Power Africa notes, individuals do not have to rely on an electricity grid that can be unreliable, and once they … Continue Reading

Japan and Africa: Turning a New Page

Is Africa becoming a strategic priority for Japan? The Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI), held in Nairobi, Kenya August 27-28, suggests that Japan is looking at Africa differently than in the past. For one, the five previous TICADs have been held in Japan; this is the first to be convened on … Continue Reading

Agreement in principle announced for an EU regime on conflict minerals

In a so-called “trilogue” meeting on June 16, the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers, and the European Commission reached a “political” agreement on the key elements of a regulation that would implement a due diligence and reporting regime for conflict minerals imported in the EU. It has taken more than three years since the … Continue Reading

Zimbabwe’s Economic Reform Challenges

Ten months ago, on August 26, 2015, Zimbabwe’s 92-year old leader, Robert Mugabe announced a 10-point plan to revitalize economic growth. Since then, the government has taken steps that signal the intention to transform a moribund economy. But the question is whether a Mugabe-led government can be successful in restoring growth and confidence in a … Continue Reading

An end to the never-ending South African poultry dispute?

President Obama, on January 11, suspended the application of duty-free treatment to South Africa’s agricultural exports that come into the U.S under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The suspension will take effect on March 15 if South Africa does not lower tariffs on American poultry products before then. The development represents another twist … Continue Reading

Zimbabwe (re-)opens to the West

Zimbabwe, in an economic quagmire for nearly two decades, has begun to implement economic reforms that, if continued, could help the nation improve the quality of life for the majority of its citizens. This nascent reform movement also suggests that government leaders have realized that its current singular reliance on China will not solve the … Continue Reading

The SDGs, business, and the development challenge

The most intriguing characterization of the new Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs), endorsed by world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, came from Amina Mohammed, assistant secretary-general of the United Nations and special advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning. During a panel discussion at the African Leadership Forum on September 24, Ms. Mohammed … Continue Reading
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