In an era of unprecedented growth in global business activities, few regions of the world offer more untapped opportunity for US businesses than Africa. With nearly 800 million inhabitants who have urgent needs for education, energy, environmental protection, clean water, clothing, financial services, food, health care, housing, telecommunications, transportation and tourism development among many others, Africa today presents a huge consumer and industrial market. Yet, only a few US firms are currently engaged in African commerce, providing about seven percent of the continent’s imports. Even so, the annual rate of return on US direct foreign investment in the region is calculated by the US Department of Commerce at 28% – higher than any other part of the globe. Bolstered by new support in Washington as well as the current wave of economic and political transformation sweeping across the continent, the opportunity now exist for increased bilateral trade between the US and Africa.
For the most part, U.S. corporate giants like Chevron, Exxon, 3M, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Caterpillar and Monsanto, to name a few, are already actively engaged in Africa. Major U.S. companies have internal expertise to gain access to market opportunities in and establish business linkages with local African firms. On the other hand, small firms do not have the internal expertise to efficiently utilize available programs and services that would make them successful competitors in the global and African marketplace. As such, they are seriously disadvantaged in accessing business opportunities and establishing linkages with African firms.
According to published reports by OPIC, U.S. small businesses "are truly America’s job-creating experts…creating 6 out of 10 new jobs and looking to enter new market to stay competitive." The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) paints a similar profile of African small businesses. In short, the small business is the mainstay of economic activities both in Africa and the United States. The obvious question is: how can these entities operating on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean be effectively and efficiently linked and, in the process, serve as the engine to catalyze business linkages. Our answer: the creation of an US-AFRICA SMALL BUSINESS NETWORK (USASBIN).
U.S. and Africa Network Schematic – Africa 1999 Expo (Adobe .pdf file)
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