In a lighthearted speech in which she poked fun at Wisconsin’s harsh winters and noted that the shape of Wisconsin is very similar to that of her own country, the U.S. ambassador to Tanzania brought with her a serious message when she was honored at Marketplace 2014 Wednesday night.
There are plenty of opportunities for businesses in Wisconsin and Tanzania to create strong partnerships that will benefit both countries, Ambassador Liberata Mulamula told more than 100 attendees at the opening reception of Marketplace, the governor’s conference on minority business development.
To say that Wisconsin is a serious trading partner with Tanzania would be an understatement. In 2012, Wisconsin companies exported just $1.6 million in goods and service to the African country — about 0.1 percent of all state exports. “We would like to see that increase to 50 percent, then 60 percent,” an overly optimistic Mulamula told the crowd.
In an effort to move toward that ambitious goal, Mulamula encouraged the business owners in attendance to reach out to her and other representatives of the country to start building partnerships. In fact, after she spoke, she handed out dozens of business cards to anyone who asked and urged each person who received one to send her an email.
Mulamula noted that Marketplace 2014 was an event that provided attendees with the opportunity to network and make connections with others, just like marketplaces in her country are the hub of business activity.
“What struck me about this conference is the name Marketplace,” she said. “For those who have been in Africa, you know that everything happens at the marketplace. That’s where the business is – the selling and buying. If you come to Tazania and you need anything – even an engine for an airplane – you go to the marketplace. They sell virtually anything.”
“To give attention and priority to the minority groups, veteran groups, the women businesses and small businesses is important,” Mulamula said of Marketplace 2014. “I can relate so well to the identity of this conference.”
Tanzania, which has a population of about 47 million, is a relatively young country, she noted, having been founded in the mid-1960s after breaking away from British rule. But the country is growing and there are plenty of opportunities for Wisconsin companies to do business there, she said. The annual increase in Gross Domestic Product in Tanzania is 7 percent – more than triple that of the U.S.
Before she spoke Wednesday night, Mulamula had a private meeting with Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Secretary Reed Hall and other state officials to discuss ways to strengthen the economic ties between the two countries.
Mulamula spoke at a networking reception that officially kicked off Marketplace 2014, a two-day networking and training event for minority, women-owned and disabled veteran-owned businesses. At the reception, hosted by Kleefisch, minority and women owned businesses that have been in operation for 25 years were recognized in an awards ceremony.
Mark Maley is the public information officer of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.