World Trade Center Delaware has collaborated with a network of advisers and investors aimed at giving state businesses greater access to the growing African economy. Through the agreement, the small- and medium-sized businesses that comprise the WTC Delaware roster of companies will be able to access experts affiliated with the African Business Portal, a Phoenix organization aimed at improving trade between the United States and Africa.
Africa is the world’s fastest-growing economy, according to recent data from the International Monetary Fund. Between 2000 and 2010, Africa grew its gross domestic product by an average of 5.4 percent, adding $78 billion annually to its economy. Growth slowed slightly between 2010 and 2015, when average GDP growth fell to 3.3 percent, or $69 billion, according to the IMF.
Multiple positive trends are expected to reverse the recent slowdown, according to economists. Africa has a young population with a growing labor force that is expected to reach 1.1 billion by 2034, which would make it the world’s largest working-age population. In the past five years, 21 million new stable jobs were created across the continent, and 53 million were created over the past 15 years, according to data from McKinsey Global Institute, a global economy think tank.
As Africa’s economy grows, its population is benefiting from technological advances. East Africa is among the global leaders in mobile payments and smartphone use is expected to hit the 50% mark in 2020, up from 2 percent in 2010, according to McKinsey’s data. Delaware’s trade with Africa largely consists of fruits imported from the continent into the Port of Wilmington; exact numbers are not available.
“We have a lot of goods and services in Delaware that we want to promote to Africa,” said Carla Sydney Stone, executive director of WTC Delaware. “This partnership will allow Delaware businesses to reach a wider market as well as resources within those markets.”
Stone said the agreement will improve trade because Delaware businesses will be able to access teams of experts who can facilitate relationships with their African counterparts. The African Business Portal offers experts in diverse industries, including agriculture, energy, information technology, pharmaceuticals and government regulations. It also has a team of investors and former ambassadors to help promote trade deals between Africa and the United States.
Lee Clegg, president of the African Business Portal, said Delaware has much to offer Africa, including the possibility of increasing the number of companies incorporated in Delaware. The state’s incorporation franchise is one of Delaware’s largest revenue producers, generating nearly $1.4 billion annually, nearly a quarter of the state budget.
Other initiatives to link Delaware and Africa include a recent visit by 25 young African leaders to the University of Delaware as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship. The program gives young people between 25 and 35 from certain African countries an opportunity to spend time at American universities.
“Africa is getting a much larger middle class, and they have an appetite for products and services,” Stone said. “Delaware businesses will benefit from reaching this wider market.”