Archive for the ‘Doing Business in Africa’ Category

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U.S. Innovators, Entrepreneurs and Business Owners Capitalize on Emerging Markets in Africa

July 30, 2015

Evi Fuelle is an intern in the International Trade Administration’s Trade Promotion and Coordinating Committee Office.

Earlier this week, several young innovators and entrepreneurs convened in Nairobi, Kenya, for one of the most exciting entrepreneurial opportunities in the world: the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES).

President Obama and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker traveled to Africa for the 2015 GES, the global business community’s equivalent of the “World Cup.”

During the sixth annual GES, the President addressed more than 1,200 attendees. The first to be held in sub-Saharan Africa, the 2015 GES shined a spotlight on the growing importance of the Continent as a center of business.

Secretary Pritzker led a delegation of roughly 200 U.S. investors to the Summit, including entrepreneurs at various points of their business development, and a diverse group of leaders and mentors from the business community.

As the Obama administration’s lead for entrepreneurship, Secretary Pritzker participated in a number of events during the GES, including the official pre-summit youth and women session, which brought together 150 entrepreneurs from around the world to provide them with an opportunity to discuss specific challenges, interact with industry experts, and pitch their business ideas to companies. Secretary Pritzker also hosted roundtables and meetings with select entrepreneurs, business leaders, and government officials.

Entrepreneurship is critical to generating economic growth, stimulating employment, and providing a basis for better economic and political stability. The U.S. government continues to lead numerous initiatives to encourage entrepreneurship and business in Africa, including the U.S. Commercial Service’s Trade Winds program, which will begin in South Africa on September 14, and will continue across the Continent through September 21.

The 2015 Trade Winds program offers U.S. companies the opportunity to explore eight markets in Sub-Saharan Africa. Featuring an Africa-focused business forum, the program consists of regional and industry specific conference sessions, as well as pre-arranged consultations with U.S. Senior Government Diplomats representing commercial markets from 19 African countries.

A Business Development Conference will be held from September 16-18 in Johannesburg as a feature of Trade Winds South Africa, giving businesses access to high visibility networking events with leading industry and government officials. The Business Development Conference will also provide businesses with the opportunity to conduct individual consultations with eight U.S. Commercial Service officers and 13 U.S. State Department posts from U.S. Embassies.

Other trade mission stops during Trade Winds Africa will give participants the opportunity to conduct customized business-to-business meetings with pre-screened firms in Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tanzania.

Both the GES and Trade Winds South Africa will provide unparalleled opportunities for U.S. innovators, entrepreneurs and business owners to capitalize on emerging markets in Africa, and the chance to seek out new innovation partners, demonstrating the administration’s commitment to helping entrepreneurs around the world realize the benefits of ingenuity.

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Benin is Powering Up and Wants U.S. Products and Expertise

July 10, 2015
Omar Arouna,Benin Ambassador to the United States

The Benin Ambassador to the United States, Omar Arouna wants more Americans to do business in Benin.

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Doug Barry is a Senior International Trade Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Global Knowledge Center.

It’s not every day when a credentialed ambassador to the United States leans over, eyes brightening, and says, “If small U.S. companies come to Africa, they will make money.  A lot of money.”

He smiles as he savors the words a lot, as if tasting something delicious.

But then it’s back to reality.  He’s asked about perceptions among U.S. businesspeople that much of Africa is decidedly unpalatable, unhealthy, unfriendly, and unprofitable.

The Benin Ambassador to the United States Omar Arouna has heard it all before.  “Benin has been a stable democracy since 1990,” he explains.  “We have the same values, the same aspirations as the American people.  We see things exactly like the American people.”

He wants more Americans to do business in Benin, a country the size of Kentucky on the coast of West Africa. Benin’s 10 million people work mostly in the service sector and in agriculture, where the main exports are cotton, pineapple, and cashews.

The port of Cotonou provides access to the sea for the inland countries of Mali, Niger, Chad, and Burkina Faso.  “We’re a small county with a big footprint,” said Arouna, referring to Benin’s location and access to a much larger regional market of more than 300 million people, including its big next door neighbor Nigeria.

But perhaps the best money-making opportunity is in Benin, with immediate business to be generated, thanks to $400 million from the people of the United States.  Benin has entered into a compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an arm of the State Department that doles out development dollars in exchange for demonstrable progress in good governance and building a market economy.

Power to the People                                                  

Combustion Associates does business in Benin

Combustion Associates confirms that Benin has been good for business.

This round of funding (a previous round helped build a port) is to strengthen the energy sector with a focus on renewables, including bio mass and solar.  More power generation at cheaper prices is needed to boost productivity, and any surplus can be sold to the regional power grid for consumption by other countries all the way to Cote d’Voire.

“We need the technology and expertise of the smaller U.S. companies,” said Arouna.  “The scale of what we need is better suited to the smaller company.  We need consulting services, hardware, even companies and investors to build and operate power-generating facilities.”

He said that there are a number of small U.S. companies working in Benin, including Combustion Associates, which manufactures portable power plants.  The owners, who are clients of the Commercial Service, confirmed that Benin has been good for business.

The Benin government is responsible for managing the MCC funds procurement process, and while the assistance is not tied (there’s no requirement that U.S. contractors be used), Arouna made it clear that he hopes U.S. companies will submit proposals when the tenders start coming out via the government’s website in late August and continuing into next year.

For businesses wanting to hit the ground running, a trade mission to Benin is scheduled for August 3-7.  If you want to talk business, Arouna says you can contact him by email directly at the embassy in Washington, D.C., emphasizing that you “don’t even need an appointment.”

“Better yet,” he said, ”I’ll meet you at the airport in Benin.”  And he’s not saying that to be diplomatic.  He means it.

For more information on the trade mission to Benin, visit the trade mission page on the Embassy’s website. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Growing the Export Tradition in North Carolina

June 10, 2015

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Wayne Cooper is the Chair of the District Export Council of North Carolina, a Marketing Partner for the Trade Winds-Africa Business Forum and Trade Mission.

Wayne Cooper

Wayne Cooper

As long as North Carolina has been a state, it’s been an exporter.

One of our first main exports was pine tar, and one rumor has it that our use of pine tar in the Revolutionary War is how we became known as the Tar Heel State. But I’m not writing to talk about rumors, or about the past.

What I want to talk about is the future, and for companies here in North Carolina and around the country, the future is global. We’re on a winning streak here in this state, and I’m not talking about college basketball. North Carolina has set goods export records for four straight years, hitting $31.3 billion in 2014.

Our globally engaged companies are reaping the benefits of that success: finding more revenue, hiring more people, expanding their inventories, their services, and their companies.

Why wouldn’t your company want to find that kind of success?

At the North Carolina District Export Council, the importance of exporting is always top of mind for us. What we want is to help get more North Carolina companies on board.

That’s why we are so glad to work with the U.S. Commercial Service, and it’s why we are partnering on the Trade Winds—Africa Forum. When we talk about the future of global business, it would be folly to not talk about Africa. In development, population, spending power, and just about any other measure, few regions can compete with the growth in Africa.

I hope that companies across the state, from the beautiful sands of the Outer Banks to the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains, will take a look at opportunities in Africa, and at the Trade Winds mission. If there is any way your company can best take advantage of the opportunities in that continent, it’s with the help of the Commercial Service team.

I want more companies to find the success that our state’s exporters already enjoy, because we all know that there aren’t many places in the world that compete with North Carolina when it comes to manufacturing, building, selling, or providing quality products and services.

Now let me say this in my best North Carolina voice: I hope to see y’all in South Africa!

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Trade Winds – Africa Offers Opportunities, Tips, and Intel to U.S. Firms

May 29, 2015

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Chris Higginbotham is a Communications Specialist in the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Northern Virginia.

Trade Winds Africa Business Development Conference and Trade Mission
Africa is a huge potential market for almost any U.S. exporter, but there are several factors for any business to consider before exporting to the continent:

  • What is your market potential?
  • How should you enter the market?
  • Who can you partner with on the ground?
  • How will you protect your intellectual property?

Good news: the Trade Winds—Africa Business Development Conference and trade mission in September 2015, will answer these questions and connect your company directly to the opportunities on the ground.

Check out the conference program and you’ll see that it runs the gamut of intelligence necessary for U.S. companies to take advantage of opportunities and find success in Africa.

U.S. Commercial Service officers from the region and expert guest panelists will explain how to mitigate business risk, brand your business, take advantage of government support, and access the growing middle class in these important emerging markets.

Click to register by June 15, 2015

Africa is one of the most promising regional markets in the world:

  • Regional economic growth has outpaced the world average and is forecast to continue.
  • A growing middle class means there’s an expanding pool of potential customers.
  • The regional focus on infrastructure development helps simplify the export process.
  • African leaders and consumers recognize and seek out quality American-made goods.

Don’t forget that in addition to the conference, there are also trade mission stops in eight growing African markets, where you will be connected directly to potential partners on the ground.

When you register for Trade Winds, our team will help identify the best markets for you, so you can make the most of your trip.

Are you ready to find your next customers and grow your business? Join us at Trade Winds! To get more information or if you have questions, contact us at tradewinds@trade.gov and follow the conversation on Twitter: #TradeWinds15.

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Three Reasons Africa Should Be Your Business’ Next Export Market

May 12, 2015

Shannon Christenbury is an International Trade Specialist at the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Charlotte, NC. More and more American companies are looking outside the United States to find new customers. Expanding to new markets leads to increased revenue and more growth – great results for any American business. For many companies I work with in Charlotte, growing markets in Sub-Saharan Africa are some of the most promising markets to explore. In fact, a number of area businesses are already growing because they have taken advantage of opportunities on the continent. Here are three reasons U.S. companies need to consider Africa as an export market:

  1. There’s never been a better time to do business there. Years of steady economic growth have created a growing middle class, and that means there are more consumers looking for quality goods and services. And an increased focus on the market is making the export process simpler.
  1. African leaders and consumers are seeking the Made-in-America label. Not only do customers appreciate the quality of American products, they also recognize the positive contributions U.S. companies make through corporate social responsibility programs.
  1. Support from the International Trade Administration’s Commercial Service is an unparalleled advantage. We have increased staff on the ground in Africa and an unequaled amount of expertise on the market, so there’s no better way for your company to have success on the continent than to work with us.

The best way to get started in taking advantage of opportunities in Africa is to join us at Trade Winds—Africa in September. Our team is leading the largest-ever U.S. trade mission to Sub-Saharan Africa, and we will connect your company to qualified, vetted partners who can help your business succeed. We will give you access to the African leaders and decision-makers that can give you the access you need.

register now button

Are you ready to find your next customer and grow your business? Join us at Trade Winds! To get more information or if you have questions, contact us at tradewinds@trade.gov and follow the conversation on Twitter: #TradeWinds15.

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President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa is Writing a New Chapter in U.S.-Africa Relations

April 9, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Post by Penny Pritzker

The President's Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa Cover ImageToday, I led the first meeting of the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa. This Council is part of the Administration’s effort to write the next paragraphs in what President Obama called a “new chapter in U.S.-Africa relations.”

Today’s gathering was intended to build on what was started at the historic U.S.-Africa Business Forum last August, when U.S. firms announced more than 14 billion worth of investments in African markets.

We want to see that kind of economic engagement continue, which is why I was honored that the President asked me to establish this Council – to ensure that the private sector’s perspective is factored into our policy making.

The Council’s job is to advise the Department of Commerce and the Obama Administration on how to expand trade and investment opportunities for U.S. firms in Africa and create opportunities for African companies that want to do business in America.

To meet this charge, the Council has focused on three key areas.

First is mobilizing capital, because robust capital markets are essential for any nation to attract long-term investment. The Commerce Department will soon launch an investor road show to provide U.S. financial firms and exporters with the opportunity to hear directly from African governments about their investment climates and specific infrastructure projects and to assess and address real market risks.

Second is improving supply chain efficiency. Ensuring quick and easy movement of imports and exports can help reduce cost, increase efficiency of trade, and boost government revenues.

Third is infrastructure. American companies have experience and expertise in developing infrastructure, but at the Commerce Department, we have heard repeatedly from U.S. companies about the challenge of competing on a level playing field with foreign firms to win major infrastructure projects. The Council has recommended the creation of a U.S.-Africa Infrastructure Center to identify, vet, and prioritize African infrastructure projects – which is a great start and will help change the dynamic.

The Department of Commerce has solutions. We have data. We have market expertise. And we have great people. Our Foreign Commercial Service has a full range of tools and services at your disposal, including staff on the ground to help U.S. companies succeed in Africa. We would like your ideas on how to get the word out.

We had robust discussions about all of these issues during today’s meeting, and I am confident that we can make great progress in the coming months and years. I look forward to continuing to work with the Council to make doing business in Africa easier for U.S. companies – and to keep America and Africa open for business together.

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Commerce Department Helps Connect Illinois Businesses to Africa

March 19, 2015

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Guest blog post by David P. Storch is the Chairman & CEO of AAR Corp. He is also a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa.  

During the next decade, Africa’s GDP is projected to rise six percent each year. The Continent is being called the world’s next major economic success story, and this growing and untapped potential includes the aviation market where AAR is a U.S.-based global player.

On Tuesday, I joined U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Analysis Marcus Jadotte  to host a Doing Business in Africa (DBIA) roundtable in Chicago. This high-level gathering, with a select group of business leaders, was held to generate and share ideas on how the International Trade Administration (ITA) can help U.S. companies, primarily small- and medium-sized businesses, to better connect to, invest in, and export to Africa.

The roundtable brought together more than 30 leaders—from companies that focus on everything from investment capital to technology, and businesses ranging in size from start-ups to multimillion-dollar firms—to discuss the hurdles of conducting business in Africa and to learn how the U.S. government can help reduce those barriers.

According to my fellow business leaders who attended, particularly those from smaller companies, access to financing is a big obstacle to doing business in Africa. In fact, many say the only financing they can get is through the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Getting products across African borders is another challenge to selling products on the Continent. During his remarks, Assistant Secretary Jadotte advised companies interested in learning more about exporting to contact their local U.S. Export Assistance Centers, located in cities across the country.

For the last 30 years, AAR has traded aviation parts with customers in Africa. Recently, we started to focus on longer-term aviation service programs and relationships with businesses on the Continent. Our shift in focus is thanks to the increasing strength of African airlines and the help we received from the Doing Business in Africa (DBIA) campaign, led by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

During the roundtable, we also discussed another challenge to doing business in Africa: the lack of infrastructure. Using the aviation industry as an example, AAR can help African companies and workers gain aircraft maintenance knowledge and skills, but the countries also still need to build the related infrastructure needed for a more robust aviation industry, including runways, terminals, and hangars. Leaders at the roundtable suggested that the need for large capital investment in transportation, utilities, and communication is probably best served by African governments engaging in public-private partnerships.

We also talked about the desire of firms like AAR to partner with local African companies since they know the market better than we ever will. I think U.S. companies’ willingness to invest in Africa and its people also differentiates the United States. As U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said, “when U.S. companies succeed, the benefits are mutually shared in the form of new economic opportunity at home and abroad.”

The key takeaway from Tuesday’s roundtable is that small and mid-sized companies need a better understanding of the resources the U.S. government can provide to help them break into the African market, and how and where to access those resources and tools.

The Obama administration’s support and “tools” were key to enabling AAR to navigate the business landscape and land a five-year, multimillion-dollar contract in 2014 to support Kenya Airways fleet of 737NG aircraft. The advocacy and access AAR gained through the Commerce Department gave us an advantage in the face of stiff competition from European companies, who are typically well supported by their governments.

To continue the conversation, many of the ideas generated at this week’s Chicago roundtable will be included in the recommendations that the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa will present to President Obama in a public forum on April 8 in Washington, D.C.

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