The continent of Africa presents opportunities for U.S. companies to enter into mutually beneficial business relationships with African companies and the public sector. On Wednesday, June 6th, more than 100 business representatives, government officials, and university students attended the Global Access Program (GAP) 2018 conference. Participants attended in-person and via Zoom video conference to learn more about such opportunities, specifically in the Sub-Saharan African (SSA) region. Panelists focused on the following four countries: Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa.

The purpose of the conference was to move beyond discussing the general aspects of the opportunities and challenges in a region that is often overlooked by U.S. companies, despite the fact that some Sub-Saharan African countries, such as Ethiopia and Ghana, are growing at faster rates than China and India. Rather, the conference included on-the-ground experts who could provide specific, industry-level insight for each of the four countries. Furthermore, these same experts were selected to align with the needs and interests of the Californian-based companies in an effort to establish useful business connections. The panelists representing the four Sub-Saharan African countries were business owners, university scholars, and public sector officials.

Here are three key ideas that emerged from the conference:

Frontier Markets – Some of the Sub-Saharan African economies have grown to the point that they no longer fall into the category of least developed countries but are still too small be labeled as emerging economies. This time of economic growth presents numerous opportunities for U.S. companies doing business in the region.  At the same, per the keynote address, U.S. firms must still be aware of the challenges and risks that exist in the different countries and develop a realistic strategy.

Credible Partners – Panelists who are currently conducting business in the region mentioned the importance of finding the right business partner located in the different countries to improve one’s chance of success. Some of the panelists themselves discussed how their organizations serve as that link between U.S. companies and those based in one or more Sub-Saharan African countries.

SSA Firms Want to Do Business with U.S. Companies – In recent years, reports have highlighted the opportunities for U.S. firms on the continent of Africa. However, it is the Chinese companies that are already seizing upon these opportunities. Some of the panelists discussed the interest of SSA firms in forming collaborative relationships with U.S. firms. Participants learned about the competitive edge that U.S. companies have and how U.S. companies can partner with Sub-Saharan African firms and the public sector  to contribute to both economic growth and development.

The various panels addressed a number of other significant topics. Listen to the conference and view the presentations for more details about the three points discussed here and other topics at https://www.csusb.edu/global-management/globalizing-region/global-access-program/gap-2018

The keynote address was given by Chief of International Affairs and Trade Policy Bryan O’Byrne, who also moderated the panel on South Africa. Sarita D. Jackson, Ph.D., President and CEO of GRIIT, offered introductory remarks and moderated the panels on Botswana, Ghana, and Kenya.