Africa is open for business with Minnesota

Ambassadors Dos Santos, Maowia Osman Khalid Issa A. Mansaray

“We want partners to maximize their profit in Mozambique,” said Mozambique’s Ambassador to the U.S, H.E. Carlos Dos Santos.

Speaking at the African Business Forum on May 18, Ambassador Dos Santos invited business leaders from Minnesota to focus on the southern African nation along the Indian Ocean. He wants Minnesotans to invest in a country known not only for its coastline dotted with islands, beaches, and offshore marine parks, but also with great potential in other business sectors.

Mozambique is part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that serves as the main regional business and commercial organization.

Dos Santos said his country wants to extend business partnerships not only with other African countries but also in the U.S. This is where Books for Africa comes in as an education partner. The Minnesota-based nonprofit organization ships thousands of textbooks to many African countries, including Mozambique.

According to Dos Santos, his country enjoys good political relations with the United States, which has contributed in helping Mozambique to deal with human rights, development, and education. His visit to the Twin Cities, he said, serves as a platform to develop the business side of the bilateral relation with the U.S. and calls on Minnesota businesses to visit and invest in his country.

He added that his country is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa that is supported by the International Monetary Funds (IMF) and the World Bank. Mozambique is focusing on development in agriculture, energy production and tourism.

He said there is a problem “finding the right partners” to serve his country. Dos Santos has visited Minnesota business representatives to emphasize the importance of “finding the right [U.S.] partners” and investors for Mozambique.

Books for Africa (BFA), the Minnesota Trade Office, and the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota hosted the meeting. Also attending the event were local business leaders and Jeff Sturchio, chairman of the board of the Corporate Council on Africa, the U.S. business council focusing on Africa.

Sturchio says total exports from Minnesota to Africa were $185 million last year, indicating a strong potential for business and trade in Africa. Though the Chinese have been active on the continent for many years, it shows there is room for competition for better services from Minnesota businesses.

Books For Africa will be shipping 22,000 (about 20 tons) of English books to Mozambique this year. Patrick Plonski, BFA’s executive director, said they plan to ship an additional 300,000 custom-printed Portuguese books to Mozambique early next year.

According to Plonski, this is part of a five-year project and the first time they are sending a huge number of books in a foreign language. There is hope to expand the project into other African countries as well.

Speaking at the Africa Business Forum, the ambassador to the U.S. from Sudan, Maowia Osman Khalid, said Sudan, like many other African countries, is open to international investors. He wants local business leaders to visit his country and see what they can offer to Minnesota investors.

Jeff Sturchio( left), Ambassador Carlos Dos Santos Issa Mansaray/MSR News

“BFA has sent 165,000 books to Sudan, and plans are in the works to send 100,000 more,” said Doug Stone, a BFA board member.

Over the years, Minnesota businesses such as Medtronic, Land O’Lakes, SABIS, YAZMI, and Schools for Africa have shown interest in doing business in Africa. At the forum, Senior Director for Business Development Bradley J. Buck said Land O’Lakes’ businesses in Africa would deliver and maintain quality, work with different cultures, and build an economy of scale and opportunities for local partners on the ground.

Buck believes the regional markets should be a two-way transfer of technology, career development for workers, and a public-private partnership doing business in Africa. Land O’Lakes, an Arden Hills-based company, currently focuses its business in Kenya, East Africa.

For YAZMI, communication and education is key to economic growth that is currently working in Ethiopia and Kenya.

On health, both African ambassadors from Mozambique and Sudan are looking forward to partnering with Medtronic. Such partnerships will encourage the development of locally produced health technology.

Even though President Donald Trump’s administration hasn’t yet appointed an assistant secretary of state for Africa to meet with African diplomatic missions, and there isn’t yet an African policy, this hasn’t slowed down Minnesota’s businesses from being interested in Africa.

“U.S. and Africa have been cooperating for many years, building interests that cannot be overshadowed or underestimated,” said Ambassador Dos Santos.

He hopes the new U.S. government will make sure that the administration works with Africa as a worthy and important partner that is not to be neglected. African countries are interested in attracting foreign investments that can help to build Africa’s capacity to a higher economic level.

 

Issa A. Mansaray welcomes readers’ responses to iamansaray@yahoo.com