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Now is the best time in history for American companies to go to Africa. The new African Continental Free Trade Agreement will bring together hundreds of millions of new consumers into one market by eliminating trade barriers across national boundaries — thus providing significant openings for foreign businesses. American companies – which are now severely under-represented in Africa — must be positioned to take advantage of these new opportunities. Currently, these companies are hampered by an unfamiliarity with the continent and an inability to find suitable, trusted partners.
However, reliable partners can be found among Africa’s elite businesswomen. These female leaders — members of the US-Africa Business Bridge Trade Association — include women who have been trained by the US government or private sector in the US, received business degrees in American schools or worked in the US. They are well-versed in American financial and commercial requirements and thus ideally suited to partner with American companies.
African Bridge members will have access to a broad array of American companies looking to establish or grow their businesses in Africa. Bridge partnerships will give these female leaders opportunities to grow their businesses at home and in the American market. And they will be able to acquire expertise and capital from their American partners.
In addition, they may take advantage of the Bridge’s extensive database to identify other businesswomen across Africa with whom they can partner to expand their supply and talent chains.
The Bridge’s impact on trade and investment between American and African firms will be considerable.
Bridge activities will promote a more robust US business presence in Africa – leading to an increase in US jobs, more US exports and more possibilities for US firms to provide training and technical skills on the continent.
These US-African partnerships will serve to more fully integrate Africa into the global economy. African firms will benefit from training in US business practices, technology transfer, greater productivity and profitability, and the possibility of expanding into the US market. And because women who succeed with their businesses invest in those businesses, their families and communities, Bridge partnerships will serve as drivers of development in Africa.
Finally, the impact of increasing the participation of women in any country’s economy are significant. A 2015 McKinsey & Company report: “The power of parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth” found that full economic equality for women could achieve this increase by 2025. In sub-Saharan Africa, the gain of full parity would be 12% or $300 billion.