In line with stepped up initiatives to boost trade between the United States and sub-Saharan African nations (SSA), the United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service led a sub-Saharan buyers’ mission to the annual Gulfood trade expo in Dubai.
Around 100 delegates from Angola, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa and Nigeria accompanied USDA officials to the Gulfood expo from 23 – 27 February, for talks with United States food producers and exporters, as well as an opportunity to discuss trade with global exhibitors.
Gulfood, described as one of the world’s largest food and hospitality trade events, brings together around 4,200 exhibitors and 80,000 visitors. Participants in this year’s event included 162 exhibitors from the United States, 34 from South Africa under the banner of the Department of Trade and Industry, 6 from Kenya, one from Tanzania, one from Ethiopia and one from Uganda.
Patrick Kerrigan, Senior Advisor to the Administrator, Foreign Agricultural Service, says the mission – the first time the USDA has brought a Sub Saharan African delegation to Gulfood, supports the White House’s Doing Business in Africa (DBIA) campaign, which seeks to actively promote bilateral trade between Sun-Saharan Africa and the U.S. The DBIA campaign, described as an unprecedented, whole-of-government approach to increase the level of trade promotion to the region, was launched in November 2012 in line with President Barack Obama’s overall U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa. With bilateral trade between the U.S. and SSA having tripled in the past decade, the U.S. exported $22.6 billion in goods and services to the region last year.
However, the initiatives are not focused solely on promoting U.S. exports to Africa, explains Kerrigan. “Trade between the U.S. and SSA is very much a win-win proposition. The U.S. might, for example, sell wheat to Nigeria, where it is processed and value-added, and the goods might be sold back into market. So everyone wins.”
Kerrigan expressed the hope that the initiative would mark the beginning of productive long-term relationships between the buyers and U.S. companies.
Delegates from both the U.S. and SSA expressed optimism about the potential for increased agricultural trade collaboration, supported by seasonal differences that allow for constant supplies of in-demand fresh fruit and vegetables to the U.S. and SSA. Despite perceived challenges in entering the African market, delegates from the U.S. and SSA were enthusiastic about the benefits that increased bilateral trade could bring.
Quintin Gray, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Agricultural Counselor for Addis Ababa, says the focus is on true collaboration and two-way trade. “It is time for the U.S. to be more fully engaged with Africa,” he said. “Africa presents huge opportunities for bilateral trade, thanks to a young and increasingly middle class population and rapid economic growth.”
The USDA will reinforce its trade promotion initiatives by hosting SSA and U.S. food producers at the second International Food and Drink Event (IFEA) Trade Show at the Sandton Convention Centre from 5 – 7 November this year. Prospective African buyers interested in participating in IFEA should contact Cindy Stern at Tel: + 27 01 000 33042.