With a reduced number of participants from Africa, due to the anxiety over entry into the US, the first US-AFRICA International women day Conference and Excellence awards, recorded interesting conversations and exciting future liaisons among participants who were present.
Ike Onwuka-Smarty, the CEO and Publisher of Africa Informer, who organized the event in collaboration with Smarty LLC Ohio, in his welcome address, stressed the importance of US based businesses looking towards Africa in the efforts to expand and increase earnings. He pointed out that Africa continues to hold its own as one of the world’s emerging markets for very high return on investments in comparism to the domestic markets in the US. He pointed out that enourmous gains in Africa has made US companies like Nestle stay in Africa for 60 years. He urged Africans and African Americans to blaze the trail by investing in Africa, especially in the small and medium scale enterprise sector that Asians continue to benefit from immensely. He also encourages the integration of native Africans and African Americans socio-economically within the US as a solid foundation for moving forward. He noted that the present situation where there is so much gap in the collaborations between native Africans and African Americans in the US is disappointing.
Royalyn Reid, CEO Consumer Marketing Insights CMI Dallas, in her paper, How African-American women business successes can inspire Black women globally to become entrepreneurial champions, elaborated on how her visit to a southern African country with other women entrepreneurs opened her eyes to the entrepreneurial dynamism of African women. She was quite impressed by the multi-tasking approach of African women to business and family. According to her she was so amazed at how African women start their businesses with next to nothing and build them up in a rather chaotic business environment and achieve successes as opposed to the more organized business format they have in the US.
Akosua Oppong-Tawiah, the Managing Director, Capital and More Micro Finance, Ghana in her submission, analyzed the micro finance model operated by her organization to ensure success of many of her customers who are women. The model was quite fascinating to the US based participants, who were thrilled by revenue generation models like paying through mobile money transfers, marketers picking up cash from customers at their shops, etc ( all models alien to US businesses). She also urged US businesses to look critically at investing in micro finance in Africa, a lucrative market.
In her paper titled, African and US Women collaboration to create new opportunities for intercontinental and global growth, Reginalea Kemp, the CEO of Kemp and Sons General Services, Fort Worth, traced how she joined forces with her husband to grow the business that was founded in 1972 by her father in-law, into one of the biggest in her sector today. She pointed out that one of the biggest problems about investing in Africa is that most Americans know little or nothing about Africa. She said that”.. most reports on the media about Africa was focused more on lack, war, corruption, villages and rural neglect, hunger etc.” And she affirmed that all these exist around the world including the US. She went on to proffer solutions – 1. Join forces with the continent of Africa through TRAVEL and enlightening conferences and forums. 2- Getting to know Africa’s climates, geography, businesses, government legislations, socio-cultural traditions, standard operating procedures,. 3- Work force – how available, motivated, trained, sustainable. 4. Business climate etc. She pointed out that more information on Africa through person to person contact is the best way forward.
Mrs. Bolanle Amupitan, the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development in Kogi State, central Nigeria, represented the First Lady Mrs. Rashida Bello. In her presentation, she analyzed to the admiration of the audience, the vast impact of the first lady’s programs for women and youth advancement in the state, through her foundation – Kogi Women and Youth Advancement Foundation, KOWAF. Which has within a short span turned around the fortunes of the women and youth in the state, through workshops, seminars and conferences, vocational training, micro financing for business startups and expansions, agricultural and artisan cooperatives, health care and education in Kogi State. The first lady also promised to host a delegation of US Women businesses in the state by November.
In his keynote address, Herbert Austin, the District Director, US Small Business Administration, Dallas Fort Worth, said that growing of small and medium businesses in the US forms an integral part of encouraging their investments in Africa, through export of goods, technical and managerial knowhow, etc. He pointed out that there are 9.9 million women owned businesses in the US and Texas has the highest number of women owned businesses with 866,000. Women owned businesses contribute $1.4 trillion dollars annually to the US economy and small businesses are the backbone of the US economy, creating 2/3 of all net jobs in the past few years. He thanked and congratulated the organisers of the event for creating a platform that would encourage the growth and expansion of small businesses in the US by integrating with Africa businesses. According to him, his government agency has the mandate to champion the 28millon small businesses in the US, through Capacity Building (counselling, training, hand holding and mentorship); Capital provision through guarantees; Contracting, by aiding small businesses get government contracts for goods and services, which by statutes have 23% reserved for small businesses and a certain percentage exclusive for women owned businesses. The US Government procures services and goods to the tune of $450-$500 billion annually.
Dr. Midred Delozia, a participant from Desoto Texas, was quite particular about the strengthening of the relationships between native Africans and African Americans as a panacea to black growth, socio-economically in the US. She also believes that this, along with visits to Africa by African American business owners, will pave way for better trade in a symbiotic relationship.
Awards of recognition were presented to Capital and More Microfinance Ghana, for Outstanding SME Finance in Africa; Mrs Rashida Bello, First Lady Kogi State Nigeria, for Inspirational Women Empowerment & Leadership in Africa.
Also recognized were Mr. Herbert Austin, District Director US SBA Dallas Fort Worth, for promotion of Small businesses in the US; Reginalea Sturns – Kemp, CEO Kemp & Sons General Services, Fort Worth, for Outstanding & Inspirational Global Women Business Leadership.
Participants from Africa also visited the premises of Kemp & Sons in Fort Worth, where it was agreed that a delegation of US women business leaders will be visiting Nigeria and Ghana in November for the 2nd US-AFRICA INTERNATIONAL WOMEN BUSINESS CONFERENCE. A special visit to Kogi State in Nigeria is one of the highlights of the planned business trip.