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Alabama trade mission to South Africa targets business opportunities

Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield will lead a trade and business development mission to South Africa and Tanzania this month that will permit Alabama businesses to explore partnership and export opportunities in a fast-growing region.

Representatives from six Alabama companies will join Secretary Canfield and international trade specialists from around the state on the 10-day mission that officially kicks off in Johannesburg on Sept. 14.

While in South Africa’s largest city, the Alabama delegation will participate in “Trade Winds Africa,” a conference organized by the U.S. Department of Commerce that highlights business opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa. Delegation members also will participate in pre-arranged consultations with senior U.S. diplomats representing commercial markets from as many as 19 African nations.

Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield
Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield

“The upcoming conference and trade mission in South Africa will give participating Alabama companies the opportunity to take advantage of an Africa-focused business forum and networking events as well as individual business matchmaking appointments,” Secretary Canfield said. “South Africa is a powerhouse on the continent and has been identified as an emerging market with broad interests from our Alabama exporters.”

Following the South Africa stop, Secretary Canfield will lead a group of economic development officials from Alabama to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to explore trade and investment opportunities and build on relationships developed when a Tanzanian delegation visited Alabama in 2013.

In addition, some of the Alabama companies on the trade mission have scheduled appointments in Tanzania, Ghana and Mozambique.


Alabama trade officials say South Africa and other parts of the continent south of the Sahara Desert represent promising markets for businesses in the state. Between 2011 and 2015, seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies were in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Alabama companies exported nearly $375 million in goods to African nations in 2014, with transportation equipment and chemicals accounting for more than half of the total, according to data from the Alabama Department of Commerce.

South Africa has been the top destination for Alabama exports by a large margin. In 2014, exports to South Africa topped $212 million, an increase of 33 percent from the figure recorded in 2012, according to Commerce data.

“Sub-Saharan Africa boasts some of the fastest growing economies in the world,” said Hilda Lockhart, director of Commerce’s International Trade Division. “This growth stems from a very vibrant private sector that’s now being supported by an improved business climate. Because the area has a growing middle class and an increasing demand for consumer goods, Alabama Is looking to find partners and to capture what it has to offer.”

Companies scheduled to participate in the Alabama trade mission to South Africa are:

  • VON Corp., a Birmingham-based maker of high voltage testing and cable fault locating equipment, as well as other products for electric utilities. Over the past decade, exports have become an increasingly important part of the company’s business.
  • Baron Services, a Huntsville-based developer of Doppler radar and weather data analysis technologies, as well as integrated weather systems for the National Weather Service and international governments.
  • The Dixie Group, a Saraland-based marketer and manufacturer of carpet tiles, broadloom and rugs for commercial applications.
  • Green Solar Manufacturing, a Birmingham-based engineering, construction, and technology service provider to commercial and government customers, with a special focus on Africa.

Representatives from the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, the Center for Economic Development at the University of Alabama, and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Birmingham office are also taking part in the Commerce-led trade mission.

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