The seats filled quickly as people walked into a conference room at Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE), box lunches and bottles of waters in hand, to hear how a new opportunity for American business and African businesses can better work together in the near future.
In an effort by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business organization, to further engage with small and medium business owners in African nations, the chamber has launched “Advance with Africa.” Tuesday’s luncheon and reception at RICE offered an opportunity to hear special guest speakers and small business owners discuss how the two nations can better work together.
A nationwide roadshow, Advance with Africa held an official sendoff Tuesday morning at the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs in downtown. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, Georgia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Clark, U.S. Chamber of Commerce – Africa Business Center President Scott Eisner and Dr. Elsie S. Kanza, ambassador of Tanzania to the United States were in attendance.
Advance with Africa will make stops in Texas and throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as be available for viewing online. With China having firm business and development relations in Africa and Japan continuing to expand its trade and investment opportunities in Africa, America is what many on the panel called “behind the curve” on small business relations with African countries.
“This is the time, this continent of incredible resources has youth to tap into those resources, and we ned to engage with them,” said Naana Frimpong, a partner with DLA Piper, a London-based multinational law firm with an office in Atlanta. Frimpong, who was born and raised in Africa, added, “There are exciting ways to grow more connectivity with the African continent.”
Scott Eisner, the president of the U.S.-Africa Business Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Chris Clark, the president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce welcomed dignitaries, economists and attorneys that are familiar with the subject, what one called “Myth-busting” about the possibilities of doing business with African nations.
“A big part about what this roadshow is about is myth-busting,” said Travis Adkins, president & CEO of U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF), a Washington, D.C.-based government agency. “At USADF we believe that Africa is the continent of now and of the future.”
Adkins said that all of USADF’s staff located in African countries are native Africans, which makes working with their fellow countrymen easier in terns of communication and trust.
Dr. Elsie Sia Kanza, the Ambassador of Tanzania to the United States, was on hand and made note that Tanzania has more than 120 tribes, giving an example of the many small business opportunities and the diversity of that country. “Most of our countries are still informal, which means it is harder to exchange information with businesses in the United States,” she said.
Kanza believes the rise of virtual work will also help many African small business owners be able to reach customer bases in the United States. “I don’t know how many of you know this but prior to COVID-19, the five fastest growing economies in the world were in Africa.”
Home to over 1.5 billion people, Africa and its many nations will be home to 1 in 4 people of the world by 2050, according to many estimations. “The goal here is when they talk about Africa they talk about the business relationship the United States has with Africa,” said Eisner. “In rooms like this is where deals are going to be made.”
City of Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens was scheduled to appear but tested positive for COVID-19 this morning, according to a Twitter post by the City of Atlanta. The post added that “The Mayor will isolate at home and will continue to hold meetings virtually.”