Africa and Atlanta – get off the fence:
Get ready to expand bilateral trading!
By Tomi Morris Johnson   tomij@wingcomltd.com
Digital images & web design by Kurk D. Johnson

©2003 WingcomLtd. All Rights Reserved.

Atlanta, GA., August 20, 2003… “Why would Atlanta businesses want to trade on the African continent?” seems a question only misinformed, pre-21st century, student economists would ask. WHY? Because post-colonial Africa is in need of transportation equipment, food, medicine, clean water, security systems, infrastructure construction, oil refineries, housing, adoptions, and investments. Despite bad press, the continent is a gold mine on the economic front for those desiring to pan trade possibilities yet not hoping to strike it rich quickly.

According to the U.S. - African Trade Profile released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, two-way trading between the U.S. and Sub-Saharan Africa was down 15% in 2002, possibly due to the U.S. recession, terrorism and the AIDS pandemic. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to do a better job with exporting goods into the U.S. than vice versa, to the tune of $11.9 billion. The U.S. imports mostly petroleum or energy related products, minerals and metals from Africa. http://www.agoa.gov/resources/TRDPROFL03.pdf The top five Sub-Saharan countries conducting business with the U. S. include Nigeria, South Africa, Angola, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea. In contrast, Benin, Eritrea, Somalia, São Tomé e Principe, and Gambia did the least international trading. http://reportweb.usitc.gov/africa/total_gsp_agoa_import_suppliers.jsp

The report states, “Despite the 2002 decline, U.S. exports to Sub-Saharan Africa were 46% greater than those to the former Soviet republics, and nearly twice those to Eastern Europe.  U.S. exports to South African alone were larger than our sales to Russia, whose population is more that 3.5 times as large.” The U.S. loves to sell to Africa, but expanding business relationships appears hamstrung.

Globalization, the increased mobility of goods, services, labour, technology and capital throughout the world, can be dangerous for poor countries, however, if corporations make all the rules without the consent and concern of local community agriculture, tariff structures, food and employment situations. "There's no reason to not have global trade…if international democracies are in tact and local democracies are vibrant," said Dr. Vandana Chiva in a recent interview with Bill Moyers.

If you are willing to expand your business to Africa, “do your homework through research and follow-up with the right people” were the major messages gleaned from attending a quarterly, international business-networking event held at the World Trade Center Atlanta on Peachtree Street.  Sponsored by the World Trade Center Atlanta (WTCA) and the Georgia Africa Society – National Summit on Africa, members from organizations ranging from the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce to the Croatian American Chamber of Commerce were in attendance.

The event was organized in cooperation with Atlanta International Museum of Art and Design, Association of Kenyan Professionals in Atlanta, Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce of Georgia, British American Business Group, Canadian American Society, the East Africa-American Business Council, French-American Chamber of Commerce, Georgia AGOA Commission, Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, Georgia State University's Center for Global Business Leadership, GlobalFax, Indian Professionals Network, International Business Association, Korean American Chamber of Commerce, Polish American Chamber of the Southeast U.S., and Southern Center for International Studies.

How are businesses in Georgia fairing as far as doing business in Africa?  Where is the next economic frontier?  Can media enterprises break into the African market?  How is the AIDS pandemic affecting business, trade, and entrepreneurship in Africa? 

Africa needs more trade than conditional foreign aid, and less AIDS.

Serge Mukendi, Summit National Bank (originally from the Congo)

Doing business is about the same everywhere. Before investing any amount of money, you want to first, learn about the markets and investigate the country. You should contact the particular country’s embassy in Washington, DC. AIDS is a problem everywhere, but in my personal opinion, in Africa you’re dealing with denial. There are things that we don’t talk about, and that needs to be changed.

“Africa remains one of the biggest, untapped markets for American businesses. If you are looking for long-term business relationships, African markets are hungry for products, and guess what?  If you take your time, do your research and identify the right people, there’s business to be done.”

                                                Patrick Tonui, International Service Director, WTCA

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