The focus of our first International Trade Seminar on March 14 was on business opportunities in Africa—a growing and diverse part of the world economy that has too many possibilities to ignore. Entrepreneurs and business experts who are already doing business in Africa and elsewhere shared from their experience and gave Charles County businesses a glimpse of what is involved.
Commissioner President Reuben Collins said in his opening remarks, “This is a great opportunity for those wanting to do business in Charles County, but also wanting to expand on an international scale. I’m excited about the possibilities that will come out of this meeting.”
Economic Development Director Darréll Brown agreed. “As entrepreneurs and business people, we want to open up the county to a broader world, and we’re here to do what we can to support that.”
Ian Oliver and Ross Ensor, with ISI Consultants, led the discussion and questioned seasoned panelists on topics such as:
- Africa’s top markets and industries
- Planning for growth and minimizing risk
- International sales and marketing
- Leveraging state and federal resources
- Export financing
- Legal considerations
The numbers show what makes Africa a world player:
- 54 diverse countries (markets)
- 2 billion people (compared to 300+ million in the U.S.)
- 5 times size of U.S. population
- 50% of population under 20
- 2 billion population that will have doubled by 2050
- 6 of the top 10 world economies are in Africa
Tips for Succeeding in Africa
Most of the advice for running a business in Africa is the same as the U.S. Have a plan. Know where you want to focus and target. (Remember Africa has 54 diverse countries and 2,000 languages.) Businesses are about relationships, and that holds true three times more in Africa. Make sure you understand the markets, as well as the differences, and try to be patient. Things work on a different time scale in Africa, and businesses need to plan for that long term—not expect a quick deal. An “internationalized” website is also very important.
Business Resources in Our Own Backyard
Whether businesses are looking to expand a business locally or internationally, Oliver suggests: “Get out and shake some hands. We’re so lucky to live where we live—a stone’s throw from Washington DC where all the trade agencies are. A stone’s throw from Baltimore where other trade agencies are, and right here in Charles County where the EDD is here. These are resources right in our backyard. Take that advantage that you have.”
The number and variety of resources is immense, and the EDD can be the first point of contact for Charles County businesses. They’ll point you in the right direction and help you find the ones that best fit your needs.
An exhaustive list of International Trade Resources can be found on the EDD’s website. Other online resources for Business Support include a Start & Grow page (links to local, regional, and national resources), Financing page, and pages about Local & Minority Business Programs and Workforce Training.
To learn about how the Economic Development Department can support your business, visit the pages mentioned or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.