February 27, 2023
Senior Vice President of Global Business Development, Export-Import Bank of the United States
Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Outreach, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
With opportunities abounding in the African market, the United States has increased its efforts in expanding business in Africa in recent years. Those opportunities were discussed during the latest installment of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Advance With Africa: Houston series.
At the event, Rick Wade, the Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Outreach at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, sat down for a discussion with Ufo Eric-Atuanya, the Senior Vice President of Global Business Development at Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM Bank). There, the pair discussed EXIM’s impact on business development in the U.S. and the opportunities that lie ahead in nationally expanding Africa’s commercial profile, particularly for small business owners.
EXIM Aims to Support Sustainable Economic Prosperity in the U.S. and Worldwide
According to Eric-Atuanya, EXIM is a financing agency that helps to facilitate exports to support American jobs and create economic prosperity worldwide.
“All [of] our financing is debt-based,” Eric-Atuanya explained. “We don't compete with the private sector. We try to complement and fill in the gaps where the private sector is not able to finance.”
As an inclusive bank, EXIM is willing to work with companies across a wide range of sectors — from BioHealth to women-owned businesses to electronic finance technology — and has a big focus on all things climate-related, such as nuclear and renewable energy and critical minerals.
“There's one exclusion we have, which is in the defense sector," Eric-Atuanya clarified. "But even in defense, if you can show that there's a dual-purpose use, we would be willing to look at it."
Small Business Plays a Crucial Role in Expanding Business Opportunities in Africa
While many are under the impression that EXIM is a bank that only works with large businesses, small businesses make up a significant portion of the bank’s portfolio.
“In FY 2022, 88% of our business was actually done with small business,” Eric-Atuanya shared.
In fact, Eric-Atuanya believes small businesses are key to the U.S.’s advancement in markets across Africa.
“To make business happen, it actually takes small business,” Eric-Atuanya said. “Small business is the engine of the economy, and [members of] the diaspora community [are] the hearts and the key to connecting with Africa.”
However, he warns that businesses shouldn’t approach EXIM too early, as being unprepared can lead to poor results and a negative reputation.
EXIM Provides Support to Businesses Through Global Business Development
At EXIM, businesses can work with the Global Business Development (GBD) to get answers to their questions, regardless of what they may be.
“[GBD is] the control room of EXIM,” Eric-Atuanya said. “[We’re] what you consider the technical assistance… because we will educate you about [our] products and services.”
In addition, EXIM offers the Make More In America program, which is focused on increasing the U.S. supply chain.
“If you’re… preparing your business here to be ready for [exports], you can… get EXIM financing, working capitals, to help build your local business here, as long as you show you are preparing it for exports,” Eric-Atuanya explained.
He added, “If it's something that's not ready for EXIM yet or that we cannot do, we will direct you [to]... other parts of the U.S. government that can.”
Ultimately, through its services, EXIM’s goal is to do more business with Africa while also creating new opportunities for U.S. businesses.
“We want to be part of the business in Africa,” Eric-Atuanya said. “It's in the commercial interest, and it's also in the national security of interest of the U.S. to be involved.”