An Alabama trade mission to Africa culminated with an extended stop in Tanzania, where meetings with high-level government representatives showcased the potential for strategic collaboration and the promise of new markets.
This month’s Commerce-led trade and business development mission focused on commercial opportunities through the Sub-Saharan region of Africa – that is, the area south of the Sahara desert. In addition to Tanzania, the Alabama delegation stopped in South Africa and participated in the “Trade Winds Africa” business forum conference.
“It is critical for Alabama businesses, particularly small enterprises, to have the opportunity to cultivate partnerships and develop export opportunities in diverse overseas markets,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “I believe trade missions like the one to Africa advance these goals, which in turn creates the potential for future jobs here in Alabama.”
While in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the Alabama delegation led by Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield found government trade leaders eager to forge new bonds to help advance the nation’s economy. Though its GDP expanded around 7 percent annually between 2009 and 2014, Tanzania remains one of the world’s poorest nations.
Nisa Miranda, director of the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development, said Tanzania’s growing economy opens up opportunities for Alabama firms, particularly in agriculture, energy, infrastructure and logistics. Organizations and the private sector in Tanzania are interested in joint ventures, training and technical assistance, she added.
“There are many opportunities in Tanzania for extending technical assistance and educational and technical training,” Miranda said. “Many of the industrial sectors are keen on exposure to the newest technologies, and offering training in these areas is a strategy to enter the African markets.”
The overall goal of the trade mission stop in Tanzania was to explore the opportunities that exist between Alabama and the east African nation. Though two-way trade remains small, Tanzania is a potential export market for Alabama-made transportation equipment, machinery, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and more, according to Hilda Lockhart, director of International Trade for the Alabama Department of Commerce.
The Alabama team’s stop in Dar es Salaam follows a visit by an official Tanzanian delegation to the state in 2013.
OPPORTUNITES AND CHALLENGES
In Dar es Salaam, Secretary Canfield and his business development team met with key government officials, led by Edwin Rutageruka, acting director general of the Tanzania Trade Development Authority, or TanTrade.
Rutageruka expressed a desire for Alabama to help his organization move Tanzania’s economy forward through training, export cooperation and university partnerships. He also invited small and medium-sized Alabama firms to attend the TanTrade Trade Fair in 2016, which is expected to draw 5,000 businesses and 700,000 visitors.
In formal remarks, Secretary Canfield told Tanzanian officials that Alabama is interested in learning more about the nation’s economy and its opportunities and challenges. He also urged the government officials to strengthen efforts aimed at reducing corruption and bureaucracy as a way to stimulate investment.
“The more vigorous Tanzania addresses the matter at national level, the more it attracts investments and thus sustainable growth,” he said, according to a report in the Afrika Reporter.