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VIEWPOINT: In Africa, the time for Delaware companies is now

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The African continent can offer plenty to Delaware companies, large and small – population, technology, and natural resources.

Carla Stone

By 2050, one-fourth of all people in the world are expected to live on the African continent. It has a population of more than 1.3 billion, and 40 percent are children younger than 14. In most African countries, the median age is below 20. These young people are better educated than any previous generation and increasingly connected and digitally savvy.

African countries are leaders in the use of mobile phones for banking and other types of e-commerce apps. In some African nations, cell phones far outnumber the people.

Africa also is home to the bulk of the world’s reserves of strategic minerals such as cobalt, lithium, platinum and others that are important to the world’s energy, environmental, agricultural, and clean manufacturing goals.

In the words of former U.S. Ambassador to Botswana Joseph Huggins: “Africa is the last emerging market and one that has potential for rapid growth. When is the best time to invest in Africa? Yesterday. When is the next best time? Right now.”

Recently, World Trade Center Delaware gathered business leaders, federal trade officials, and representatives of several African nations and institutions in Wilmington for the World Trade Center Delaware Kickoff to the U.S.-Africa Business Summit.

The Summit, organized by the Corporate Council on Africa, is where corporate and government leaders from the United States and the 54 nations of Africa meet. This year, it is taking place in Dallas, Texas, where we are again proud to be exhibiting and representing Delaware’s businesses, institutions, and government agencies. Those companies that participate in the Summit with us have established partnerships leading to increased sales and profits.

With more than half of the planet’s 20 fastest-growing economies and virtually unlimited potential for growth, Africa is in a unique position to join Delaware companies, educational, and research institutions. Delaware has a special relationship with Africa, in part because of Port Wilmington. Credit also goes to U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, widely regarded as the Senate’s “Africa Expert” through his personal experience in Africa and his work with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and its various subcommittees on Africa.

U.S. businesses that export grow faster and pay higher wages, said Tony Ceballos of the U.S. Commercial Service. “The upside to American companies wanting to do business in Africa is fairly high. The whole world is open for U.S. businesses that export,” he said.

As Professor Ezrah Aharone, founder of the Center for Global Africa and a former Delaware State University faculty member, said: “It’s a new Africa now, with a new generation of leaders who are up and coming.”

Now is also the time for Delaware to step up and lead, developing solid relationships with our friends in Africa. To quote one company leader whom we helped enter Africa’s markets: “Added all together, the World Trade Center Delaware has introduced us and helped us establish a path to over $100 million in sales for our company in Africa over the next 5-10 years.”

Companies that act now will reach a new, expansive, thriving market – an opportunity they cannot afford to miss.

Carla Stone is president of World Trade Center Delaware (www.wtcde.com), the First State’s leading international business resource.

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