Much of our knowledge of Africa is based on poorly informed stereotypes, high-budget movies and media focus on negative news like famine, drought, civil war, and extreme poverty. All of this suggests more of a role for emergency relief than mutually beneficial business partnerships. While some parts of Africa are plagued by crises, there are also regions and countries with political stability and economic growth. Indeed, there exist many opportunities for productive collaboration with businesses in much of Africa. Nonetheless, most people know very little about the African continent, particularly about business and investment opportunities there.
Africa's integration into the global economy has been rocky and slow. A century ago, Western colonialism of Africa assigned it the role of exporter of cheap raw material, and importer of processed goods from the West. After colonial powers left Africa little changed in this pattern of trade. The continent continued to export raw materials and import very little due to its poverty. However, changing global forces are new creating opportunities for the supply of value-added goods, particularly agricultural commodities, from developing regions like sub-Saharan Africa. Meanwhile, the atmosphere for private foreign investment in Africa has warmed and the options for exports to the African continent have also widened.
An increase in the demand for higher value products such as horticultural cops and similar “niche” products has created the opportunities for developing countries to diversify their agriculture and exploit their advantage in the production of labor-intensive products. Technology change, institutional innovations and evolving preferences have resulted in significantly higher demand for value-added goods like cut-flowers, fair trade coffee, and organic produce.
Developing countries, including African ones like Kenya, Ghana and Uganda have entered these markets with hopes of generating faster economic growth. Nontraditional exports such as these niche products tend to initially comprise a small share of national exports, but with time there may be significant growth. For example, ten percent of Kenya’s agricultural exports and 5.5 percent of agricultural value-added production come from processed and fresh vegetables as well cut flower exports (World Bank 2005).
About This Project
This website aims to provide information to businesses in the United States and elsewhere that are interested in doing business in Africa. We will aim to disaggregate the continent in to various regions with indications of business hospitality, political stability, cultural and linguistic guides. This website is run by the University of Illinois, therefore our focus is on Illinois business, but our attempt is to make the information as relevant as possible to businesses everywhere.
We present a list of African countries that may be of interest to potential business partners in the West as well as a list of products that may be traded with ease. We also provide the information needed for such collaboration and the resources to facilitate the process, including likely points of entry, government offices in the US and in Africa, information on government regulations and restrictions, licensing requirements, certification procedures, and brand creation.