Representatives from Ellicott Dredges LLC were among 20 U.S. manufacturers who accompanied U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on a trade mission to Ghana and Nigeria from May 18 to 23. Peter Bowe president and Paul Quinn vp sales of Ellicott participated in the mission which focused on Africa’s energy sector.
Besides accompanying Secretary Pritzker on her meetings with African leaders the companies had the opportunity to meet with potential customers. In a report following the mission the Commerce Department noted that Ellicott had signed “multiple deals to provide dredges in Nigeria.” Peter Bowe described one of these contracts saying “We signed a contract for a dredge package consisting of pipe floats freight and training. During the trade mission we met with several prospective clients and existing clients as well.”
Other companies signed contracts on the mission including Charlotte-based renewable energy company SEWW which was selected by the Electricity Company of Ghana to lead a $25 million per year upgrade and expansion project in the Greater Accra Region and Environmental Chemical Corporation of California which signed a memorandum of understanding with University College Hospital Ibadan to finance design and build a new state-of-the-art cancer institute.
A report from the Commerce Department stated that the trade mission was meant to fulfill the President’s goal of furthering trade and investment relationships across the African continent which is home to seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world.
“American companies are in Africa and more American companies want to be in Africa” Secretary Pritzker said. “This trade mission has already helped U.S. companies take advantage of mutually-beneficial opportunities to do business in Ghana and Nigeria in particular.” Ensuring that American firms are primed to do business in Africa will help the African people realize economic success and fuel growth and job creation in the U.S. she said.
Speaking to a group of business leaders in Lagos Nigeria on May 21 Secretary Pritzker said that “in Nigeria in particular the opportunities are abundant. You are home to the largest economy in Africa and one in five people on the continent are Nigerian. Not only do our governments stand together as partners and friends but our companies – as evidenced by this trade mission – are eager to forge stronger partnerships in Nigeria.”
Acknowledging recent local tragedies a suicide bombing in Jos that killed three people the day before and five weeks earlier the abduction of hundreds of young girls by terrorist group Boko Haram the Secretary said “I want to offer my condolences to the families in Jos following the tragic attack there yesterday. And I want to address the issue that is on all of our minds. To the north of here in the town of Chibok hundreds of families are without their daughters today. The United States is supporting Nigeria as it works to find and free these young girls.”
She said that the U.S. is among a number of countries who have pledged to work together to combat Boko Haram.
“Our commitment is long-term; we will stand by Nigerians as they strive to defend and protect their sons and daughters husbands brothers sisters and mothers” she said.
While in Nigeria Secretary Pritkzer announced that on August 5 2014 the U.S. Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies will co-host the first-ever U.S.-Africa Business Forum a day focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent. The forum will take place on the first day of President Obama’s U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit. To be held at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington D.C. the summit will convene leaders from more than 45 from sub-Saharan and North African nations to discuss regional economic political and development issues. It will be the first summit of its kind and the largest event that any U.S. president has ever convened with African heads of state or government.
Secretary Pritzker concluded her visit to Africa with a stop in Ethiopia where she met with President Mulatu Teshome and private sector leaders to discuss ways to increase bilateral trade and investment between the U.S. and Ethiopia. Secretary Pritzker underscored the U.S. commitment to renewal of the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) as one tool that will continue to deepen trade relations between the U.S. Ethiopia and the entire African continent. Secretary Pritzker was joined in Ethiopia by Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.) who sits on the House Foreign Relations Committee.
AGOA allows 6400 products from eligible Sub-Saharan African countries to enter the U.S. duty free. In 2013 U.S. imports under AGOA totaled $26.8 billion and the Obama Administration is committed to renewing AGOA before it expires in 2015. In addition to renewal the Administration is interested in ways to update the legislation to encourage diversification within Africa’s economies which will better support the continent’s growth development and competitiveness.
The fast growth in Ethiopia’s economy is also generating an increase in the number of U.S. firms looking to do more business in the country. Ethiopia’s gross domestic product has grown an average of 9.1 percent over the last 10 years making it Africa’s second fastestgrowing economy and the sixth fastest-growing economy in the world. One of the ways the Department of Commerce helps companies take advantage of mutually-beneficial commercial opportunities in Africa and around the world is through the Foreign Commercial Service teams that work out of embassies specifically to help American businesses find new partners and customers overseas. The Department of Commerce recently announced that it will nearly double the Foreign Commercial Service footprint in Africa opening its first-ever offices in Ethiopia Angola Tanzania and Mozambique and expanding teams in four other countries.