For the first time since the Obama administration’s “Doing Business in Africa” initiative went into effect, an aviation company has landed a multi-year deal in Africa. AAR, a global aerospace, government and defense contractor, recently announced a five-year deal with Kenya Airways. Under the conditions of this multi-million dollar accord, Kenya Airways agrees to provide power-by-the-hour component support for its fleet of 737NG aircraft, while AAR places inventory on site in Nairobi and offers rotable pool support from its newly established supply chain in Brussels.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s leadership and staff from Washington D.C., Chicago and the U.S. Embassy in Kenya aided the finalization of this arrangement by connecting AAR’s top executives with African government and business officials during a visit to Nairobi, Kenya. The successful advocacy strategy was also supported by several inter-agency partners including the U.S. State Department.
Deals like these are one of the key reasons the U.S. Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies hosted the inaugural U.S.-Africa Business Forum on Tuesday. The event, part of President Obama’s U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent. The Forum highlighted U.S. private sector engagement in Africa in the areas of finance and capital investment, infrastructure, power and energy, agriculture, consumer goods, and information communication technology. Heads of state engaged with business executives from both sides of the Atlantic in conversations about successes and solutions to build greater access for trade and investment in Africa. The day served as a catalytic opportunity for American companies to increase economic partnerships and investment in Africa and ended with the announcement that U.S. companies plan to invest more than $14 billion in the continent.
While these announcements and deals are exciting moments, they take great preparation and negotiation. For example, AAR contacted the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Advocacy Center for assistance in reaching decision-makers at Kenya Airways, including the CEO. Over the course of several months, AAR representatives were provided with assistance on meeting legal requirements, establishing business protocols, and cultivating key business relationships in Kenya. The advocacy effort was brought to the attention of then-Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, who in late 2012, personally advocated on behalf of AAR to Kenya Airways and government officials during her trip to Nairobi, Kenya; providing an additional measure of support which helped secure the business deal for AAR.
AAR chairman and CEO David Storch expressed the role Acting Secretary Blank’s visit played in forging the business and personal relationships that enabled the deal to go through, saying “the advocacy and access AAR gained through the Commerce Department’s program gave us an advantage in the face of stiff competition from European companies.”
The Doing Business in Africa (DBIA) initiative, first announced in December 2012, was designed to close the opportunity gap between American business and emerging markets in Africa, home to seven of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Obama administration efforts include enhanced outreach from the Department of Commerce and interagency partners to provide American companies with leads and introductions; and advocate for and connect businesses with distributors and potential customers.
The AAR success is just the latest collaborative effort by the U.S. Commercial Service’s Advocacy Center which works to “level the playing field” for U.S. exporters companies looking to bid on public sector contracts with overseas governments and government agencies. The Advocacy Center works closely with the U.S. Commercial Service network of domestic Export Assistance Centers and Commercial Offices within U.S. diplomatic missions overseas. Last year, the Advocacy Center helped facilitate billions of dollars in U.S. export sales.