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Published: Friday, 5/16/2003

Local opportunity seen for business with Africa


Good business opportunities can be found in Tanzania, Botswana, and other African countries, especially for small- and medium-sized outfits that understand local markets and can adapt in developing economies, two University of Toledo professors say.

“You don't have a lot of competition in African countries,” said Nigeria native Sam Okoarofo, a professor of international business and marketing at UT.

“It can be done, as long as you form good partnerships with reputable partners.”

Mr. Okoarofo and Richard Weisfelder, a UT political science professor, were featured speakers yesterday during sessions on African trade opportunities at a World Trade Day seminar downtown hosted by Toledo's Great Lakes International Trade Institute.

Many African countries have small economies and undeveloped infrastructures, which is why small- and medium-sized companies may make better fits than larger ones, said Mr. Weisfelder, who lived in Botswana for three years and is leading a group of students to Africa this summer.

About 30 people attended the sessions on African trade opportunities, where a delegation of six people from Tanzania also gave presentations about five companies trying to find export partners and investors. Seeds, teas, sisal rugs, handicrafts, and clothing are some products the five companies sell.

The delegation, which arrived April 25 and returns to Tanzania on Monday, hopes to make contacts both to import and export products, Sima Daniel Mandi, a financial analyst and leader of the delegation, said between sessions yesterday.

Tanzania especially needs to import machinery, he said.

Wheat, aircraft, and telecommunications equipment are some of the goods U.S. companies export to Africa, said Mr. Okoarofo, who also is editor of the African Business Journal.

Tourism, agriculture, construction, and mining, meanwhile, are some possibilities for investment, others said.

Above all, Mr. Okoarofo said, it is essential that American businesses active in Africa be good corporate citizens.

“You don't want to be seen as only in just for profits,” he said.

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