Africa Trade Office
Message from the Director
Welcome to the Prince George’s County EDC Africa Trade Office!
In 2008, Senator Cardin (D-Maryland) championed the opening of the Prince George’s County Africa Trade Office (ATO), designed to promote U.S. and Africa trade, FDI and EB-5 Investors’ Program. In this light, the administration of County Executive Rushern Baker is committed to the promotion of County, State and U.S.-Africa trade through the Africa Trade Office.
During the AGOA Forum in Washington, D.C. on June 13, 2013, Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson emphasized that:
The AGOA is our most important trade legislation in respect to opening up our markets for African goods and services. We remain committed to AGOA. We believe that it has brought substantial economic, commercial, and trade benefits to a number of the countries that have participated. It is a program which is widely valued across the African continent. And it is a program which has resulted in a substantial increase in African exports into the United States market.
However, in a report titled “Promoting Shared Interests: Policy Recommendations on Africa for the Second Term of the Obama Administration”, Stephen Hayes, President of Corporate Council on Africa open’s up with a serious statement stressing the following:
There is a grave concern in the United States business community that America is being squeezed out of the 21st century African economy. Without a much better and more focused effort, the United States may lose its pivotal chance to play a substantial role in the development of a region that is of major importance to us, and also miss a chance to help our own economic recovery” (p 4).
World Bank reports indicate that over 30 million Africans have migrated out of the continent and constitute a powerful but sparsely distributed economic force. In 2012, remittances by African Diaspora amounted to about $22 billion, an increase of 8% from the previous year. This growth is projected to reach 15% or more in the coming years.
The Prince George’s County Africa Trade Office has increasingly become a one-stop-shop for U.S. companies exploring trade opportunities with Africa. It has also become a reference international business office with expertise to assist African governments and businesses interested in U.S expertise in training and institutional capacity building; AGOA import/export regulations; infrastructure; construction of markets, roads; health centers and schools; energy; agri-business; food processing, safety and security; water bottling; hydro-power/dam construction; mining and quarrying; automobile; textiles and garments; environmental and green industries; ICT services (data and call centers), tourism, etc.
Under this background, the Africa Trade Office has developed two key initiatives to respond to these business needs from our local companies and from our African partners.
- ATO Doing Business in Africa Series: launched in March 2013, this initiative provides business lectures; business-to-business matchmaking; market research and key sector identification in African markets; discussions on trade missions; business joint ventures and partnerships; international business plans; Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and EB-5 Investors’ Program. We are proud to note that on July 1, 2013, President Obama announced “Trade Africa Initiative” aimed at easing and promoting commerce with East African Community (EAC), including Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Specifically, the White House initiative aims at “Advancing the Doing Business in Africa campaign to encourage U.S. businesses to take advantage of growing trade and investment opportunities and to promote trade missions, reverse trade missions, trade shows, and business-to-business matchmaking in key sectors.” (The White House, July 1, 2013).
- Gateway to Africa International Economic Summits and Gala Awards: this is a social business gathering to celebrate Prince George’s County African owned businesses, our international partners, U.S. and African leaders involved in the business of economic development, and the promotion of U.S.-Africa trade. On a more general perspective, the Africa Trade Office focuses on the following strategic objectives:
- Expand trade between SME import/export businesses in the U.S. and targeted countries in Africa;
- Offer specialized training; market research, one-on-one counseling, teaming opportunities, trade and investment opportunities, evaluation of business needs and business support, access to capital and deal development through workshops, seminars, information sessions and certificate training courses (Export One: Africa!);
- Establish business partnerships and joint ventures between U.S. businesses and African SMEs on the continent;
- On the Diplomatic level, develop and maintain viable international business and sister city partnerships with Prince George's County;
- Promote County Executive Rushern L. Baker's $50 million Economic Development Incentive Fund (EDIF), to expand business opportunities; provide assistance to minority businesses; provide incentives for new businesses interested in locating their principal office or base of operations in Prince George's County;
- Develop and increase the number of business agreements and /or deal closings at the local, state, federal and international levels;
- Facilitate imports/exports at the U.S. Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ #63): a designated area adjacent to U.S. Customs Port of Entry, which is considered to be outside the Customs Territory of the U.S.
- Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs) are a public-private partnership to maintain and attract U.S.-based international trade activity. Prince George's County, is home to one of four Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs) within the State of Maryland to:
- Encourage and expedite U.S. participation in international trade;
- Foster imports/exports at the local, state and international levels;
- Promote the benefits of AGOA for imports/exports.
On a daily basis, our experienced staff in international business, work with about 20 different African countries and the BRICS nations (Brazil, India, China and South Africa), to assist U.S. and African businesses, as well as African governments, to increase their capacity and leverage in imports/exports, trade and diplomacy.
Dr. Frank Forka, Director
The Prince George’s County EDC Africa Trade Office