Former President, U.S.-Africa Business Center, Sr. Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
September 20, 2022
On Tuesday, September 6, the U.S. Chamber’s nationwide Advance with Africa roadshow held its first stop with a kickoff event at the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs in Atlanta, Georgia. The audience was filled with one hundred people, ranging from small business owners to diplomats, all passionate or curious about investing in Africa, a continent filled with immense business opportunities.
“A big part about what this roadshow is about is myth-busting… We believe that Africa is the continent of now and of the future,” said Travis Adkins, President & CEO of the U.S. African Development Foundation as thunderous applause filled the auditorium. His fellow panelists echoed these sentiments, explaining how Africa has been a continent filled with exponential growth, driven by abundant resources, technology, and huge markets. Other countries have recognized the growing strategic importance of Africa, and it’s long overdue that the U.S. engages Africa more frequently and intentionally. A common refrain of the audience was “finally.” Finally, through the roadshow, they were being provided assistance in how to engage Africa commercially, giving critical insights on how to get started.
Bridging the Divide
Advance with Africa is filling the gap felt by many in the African diaspora and small business community who are seeking strategies for how to succeed in Africa, the world’s next big growth market. By collaboratively partnering with the private sector, state and local officials, and the federal government, Advance with Africa is unlocking dynamic new opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises, minority-owned especially.
The African diaspora in the United States represents some of the country’s fastest-growing immigrant communities and comprises over 4.5 million individuals who were either born in sub-Saharan Africa or report ancestry in a sub-Saharan African country.
This fast-growing and highly-educated community is a big believer in Africa’s untapped business potential, as well as the potential for businesses to play a transformative role in solving the continent’s biggest challenges. Members of the African diaspora are joined by many in the small business community in wanting to meet the continent’s unfulfilled demand for goods and services. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey of 3,800 small businesses that export, but face several barriers to trade. Many small enterprises don’t know where to go for answers about foreign regulations and payment collections. As many as 73% of small businesses surveyed are not aware of digital resources that can help them reach customers around the world. If small businesses had better access to global markets, it could increase the GDP of the US by $81 billion and add 900,000 new jobs.
Getting in the Game
Josh Norman, the former Pro Bowl cornerback famous for his ability to read an offense in the NFL, is now making moves off the field with Africa. After attending the kickoff event, the All-Pro played host at the post-event reception, which also marked the soft opening of his own small business Omni Coffee and Eggs.
In launching his small business, Norman began a quest for the best coffee beans in the world –leading him to the Ethiopian highlands, which are now the direct source of all the coffee he sells in his Southwest Atlanta coffee shop.
Entrepreneurs like Josh are not immune from risk, but through proper due diligence and research, are able to locate the right partners abroad to realize a dream at home. Advance with Africa aims to impart the necessary knowledge and tools so that any business looking to make those next steps is equipped with a road map for the journey.
Only The Beginning
Atlanta was just the first of many conversations focusing on transforming the narrative around Africa’s business climate and dispelling myths—creating new opportunities for American businesses big and small. Through engagements with distinguished speakers and dynamic partners such as Absa Bank and Prosper Africa, Advance with Africa provides our audience with in-depth knowledge, advice on legal and financial considerations and business risk, and a full suite of tools and support offered by public and private sector organizations.
Additionally, this series underlines the relevancy of the African market, set to become home to one in four of the world’s people by 2050 and one in three of those in the global workforce. Businesses, both on Wall Street and America’s Main Street are increasingly recognizing that now is the time to engage this vital continent.
This is only the beginning of Advance with Africa. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter as we announce the roadshow’s next stops, convene related webinars, and organize our business delegations to the continent. If you think we should head to your city next, tag the U.S. Africa Business Center in your post and tell us where!
About the authors
Scott Eisner is president of the U.S.-Africa Business Center (USAfBC) at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.