U.S.-Africa Summit: How African Americans Can Invest in Africa

[EXCLUSIVE] U.S.-Africa Summit: How African-American Entrepreneurs Can Engage (Part 1)

President Barack Obama addresses the audience at the U.S.-Africa summit in Washington, D.C. (Image: File)

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Whitaker says she was disappointed not to see more African-American companies around the rooms. “African-American firms were either not engaged with Africa or were not invited to the summit. It’s likely a combination of both. I hope we can change this paradigm. We cannot afford to ignore the region with the fastest growing consumer class and the fastest growing consumer market. More than one trillion dollars in consumer spending is African.

But with Chinese and Indian companies already heavily established on the continent it could be an uphill battle for American corporations looking to get in the game, especially when many believe the US is coming in during the fourth quarter. And if getting in is a hard sell for big corp what hope is there for the black small business owner?

Jarrett disagrees. “Big or small we are very confident that US companies have the ability to compete with china or any other company from any country and what we have to do is demonstrate why we are great partners,” she asserts.

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Verheijen believes African Americans need to consider the big picture. “Entrepreneurs of color should be looking to providing goods and services,” he urges. “That’s an area where we have barely scratched the surface. African Americans have so much products to sell. It makes perfect business sense to consider this untapped market.”

In his opinion, entrepreneurs of color would be better served bringing in products and providing expertise. He says it is alright for big corporations to come down to build a power plant or a refinery or even a bridge but what Africans really need are basic things that sell quickly to tap into the billion dollar market. Things like cereal, matches, toothpaste—basic, everyday commodities that appeal to the one billion plus people living on the continent.