US-Africa Trade & Investment ForumMonday 18 August, 2008
I attended the US-Africa Trade & Investment Forum @ Navy Pier. The morning was scheduled to kick-off with greetings by local officials, some of whom showed, & some did not, or strolled in later in the day.
On Trade/Investment from the US to Africa: Alison Germack of OPIC gave the same presentation she gave @ the Illinois Global Partnership event. I requested of Thelma Young of the Department of Commerce to send me her presentation on the African Growth & Opportunity Act, but haven’t received it yet. I requested John Richter of EXIM Bank send me his presentation, but never got it. Check out my interview with Mike Howard, Midwest Regional Director of EXIM Bank, @ Midwest Business for more info. John Nevelle of the Small Business Administration sent over his presentation: sba-trade-loans
Of the African government representatives, only the Nigerian Bureau of Public Enterprises sent me their presentation:dgs-paper-chicago-final-version. I requested the presentation from the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, but haven’t received it yet.
Although real-life stories are always best @ these types of promotional events, some presentations during the panel discussions were just commercials for the presenting companies. J. Ossler of ViaSat said Africa’s biggest challenge if to create reliable infrastructure & only 3 1/2% of the population has access to the internet.
This event could have been renamed Mr. Dada’s US-Nigerian promotional event. All of the speakers sang the praises of Mr. Dada, who takes 1/4-ly trade delegations to Africa. He’s been putting on this conference for a number of years & it is improving. He hired Emily Brinkmoeller to moderate & that helped. His proclivity to usher up every politician as they enter the room is kind of irritating, but less so than in the past. Although representatives from a few other countries such as Egypt & South Africa participated, the vast majority of the presenters were from Nigeria.
Opportunities with Africa appear to be looking up. Many seem to be basic infrastructure plays. Illinois sent $14 B in exports to the continent last year. Aid is transitioning into investment. Oil makes it a more interesting destination. Given most of Africa is still in the developing stage, that makes finding the right local partners all the more important. There are not enforceable laws to protect foreigners, so locals can navigate the mazes much better. It’s also difficult to get used to different levels of technology & ways of living, so building your own business in many countries there can be treacherous.