The Trade with Africa Business Summit convened in Bentonville, Ark. on Thursday and Friday this week. The summit was convened by Nazaru CEO Toyin Umesiri who designed the summit to position Arkansas as a favorable destination for African business and political leaders looking to create new partnerships in the U.S.
The World Trade Center Arkansas was a sponsor for the summit and Denise Thomas, Director of Africa and Middle East Trade for the Center served as a moderator on a panel discussing opportunities for U.S. businesses on the continent. Panel experts were Shakira Motan, the trade commissioner of the South African Consulate in Chicago and Kayode Laro, Consul General of the Nigerian Consulate in Atlanta.
“The summit was a huge success,” Thomas said. “Economic development is key to elevating prosperity and ultimately encouraging bilateral trade between countries. Dozens of key decision makers will be able to take what was discussed here by experts back to their home countries in Africa and implement strategies to boost economic development through sustainable commercial practices.”
Albert Zeufack, Chief Economist of the World Bank for Africa gave one of the first presentations of the summit, outlining Africa’s economic projection. Zeufack was very pleased with the summit and said it was “masterfully organized and well executed.”
“Professional and key leaders committed to African development gave great insight into doing business in Africa,” he said.
Many of the speakers and experts were met with applause during their presentations as they told engaging stories of success or elaborated on strategies proven to make a positive difference in creating sustainable business solutions in Africa.
Scott Ford, CEO of Westrock Coffee gave the keynote address sharing the story behind the creation of Westrock Coffee and Rwanda Trading Company. Ford oriented his business venture around the idea of paying farmer the most greatest amount of money for their labor to help elevate them out of poverty.
Ford also served as an advisor to Rwandan President Paul Kagame to help create a positive business environment in the country. Ford strongly stressed that three principle ingredients were required for successful economic development in Africa: no corruption, the rule of law equally applied to all and the right regulatory and tax environment.
Ford’s keynote was followed by general sessions led by Donnie Smith, founder of the African Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) and former CEO of Tyson Foods as well as Dale Dawson the founder of Bridge2Rwanda.
Smith created ASAP to teach Africans sustainable farming practices and allows farmers to finance small chicken coops over a three years period, interest free. ASAP currently runs a feed mill and a 10,000 hen table-egg farm and will soon have a hatchery to supply better quality chickens for the growers. ASAP has already demonstrated an ability to raise the standard of living for farmers. The ultimate goal is to spread sustainable agriculture practices to counter food scarcity before Africa’s population doubles in 2050.
“My mission is now to foster sustainable farming practices across the continent so that families can break the cycle of poverty and feed future generations,” Smith said.
Dawson launched Bridge2Rwanda to build a fellowship of globally educated leaders in Africa. It helps top high school graduates earn scholarships to study abroad, while ensuring the students return to Africa to launch their careers. The program is designed to fight the brain drain phenomena in which highly skilled, educated and intelligent people emigrate away from their home country and settle in another. Brain drain can inhibit economic development because it leads to a lack of talent and a smaller skilled workforce.
Bridge2Rwanda operates on four principles to encourage foreign direct investment by developing the country’s best students into future Rwandan leaders: identify promising individuals; prepare them spiritually and academically; connect them with scholarship, internship and employment opportunities; and ultimately encourage them to create new businesses, technology and infrastructure in Rwanda to increase economic prosperity.
“We believe a small group of committed servant leaders with a shared vision can be a powerful force to transform their countries,” Dawson said.
Many participants at the summit were highly interested in Smith’s, Ford’s and Dawson’s models for sustainable business.
“Our hope is that the summit participants will use the insight from these leaders and adopt similar practices in their home countries,” Thomas said.
For more information about the Trade with Africa Business Summit, visit http://www.tradewithafricabusinesssummit.com or contact Toyin Umesiri at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 989-400-6711.
The mission of the World Trade Center Arkansas is to grow trade and increase Arkansas exports by connecting Arkansas businesses to the world through international trade services. For more information and valuable updates, please follow the Center on Facebook and Twitter, or subscribe to the World Trade Center Arkansas newsletter.