West Africa could be emerging market for Wisconsin

Momentum is building to help Wisconsin companies develop business relationships in west Africa, a region of 16 countries and a $600 billion emerging economy.
West Africa’s economy is based on oil and natural gas exports, and the region’s demands for American-made products is growing, according to Trent Graham, small business development director of the Milwaukee office of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Ltd., a global advising, accounting, risk management and mergers and acquisitions firm.
Graham said the business community in west Africa is hungry for agriculture products, heavy equipment, equipment for gas and oil pipelines, computer software and hardware and products to oversee and control manufacturing.
PricewaterhouseCoopers has about 150 employees working in two offices in Nigeria. The company has had at least one office in the region since the late 1970’s.
Several programs are being launched to help Wisconsin businesses learn about opportunities in west Africa and overcome negative perceptions about the region.
Executives from Nubacom International will lead a trade mission of Wisconsin business owners and executives to the region in late March or April.
Nubacom International is a subsidiary of Nubacom Inc., a Milwaukee-based IT consulting firm formed about one year ago to specialize in trade and risk management bridging infrastructure gaps for international trade between Asia, Africa, Europe, South and North America.
The trade mission will be led by Anderson Laniyonu, president of Nubacom International and Nubacom Inc., and former New Hampshire State Sen. Wayne King.
King is currently director of the Electronic Community, a nonprofit organization providing technology training and capacity-building to non-governmental organizations in west Africa.
Laniyonu said are about 15 people have registered for the Wisconsin delegation. He’s hoping that 20 to 40 people eventually go on the mission. The delegation will visit west African industrial, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, tourism, health care, oil and gas companies.
"We will visit businesses to take a first-hand look at how they run their operations, ask questions and get a feel for what the marketplace is," Laniyonu said. "This will give them a better comfort level, to see if they want to participate in the marketplace or not. And they will get to meet and get to know the actual players they will participate with."
Wisconsin’s economy could benefit from improved trade relations with west Africa, Laniyonu said.
"We’re (hoping) it will have an impact of $100 million to $200 million in positive cash flow coming into Wisconsin every year," he said. "There are a couple of government agencies from Nigeria that are interested in this. They see the potential for doing business here, that the business community here could sell a lot of products (there). American products are very wanted and needed in that market."
The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce hosted a seminar last Jan. 14 by Nubacom International on the import and export opportunities between Wisconsin and west Africa.
Many Wisconsin firms could prosper by selling their goods and services in western Africa, Graham said. However, many need to get past their misconceptions about the area.
"There are huge export opportunities," Graham said. "They’ve got the cash to spend."
To take advantage of that available capital in West Africa, several state officials are working on a potential sister-state relationship between one of the west African countries and Wisconsin.
That relationship is in its infancy now, but officials in the offices of both state Sen. Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee) are involved with the initiative.
"As an African-American legislator, I’m excited about the prospects, and I’d like to see these business opportunities first-hand," Coggs said.
West Africa
Sixteen countries comprise the west African region. They are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire , Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Camaroon.
January 21, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

No posts to display