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5 Takeaways about Doing Business in Africa

In case you missed it during the U.S.-Africa Business Forum last week, the International Trade Administration (ITA) published a report that shows that the U.S. trade relationship with Africa is growing at an increasing rate.

ITA’s Report on U.S.-Africa Trade and Investment examines the economic statistics related to U.S. commercial involvement in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) – one of the world’s fastest-growing economic regions. The report is part of the Doing Business in Africa (DBIA) campaign, through which federal trade agencies are joining forces with U.S. businesses to take advantage of the growing export and investment opportunities available in the region.

Here are the five key takeaways of the report:

1. Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world. Average GDP growth has surpassed 5.2 percent three straight years. The International Monetary Fund estimates that this will increase in both 2014 and 2015.

2. U.S. exports to SSA are at record levels. Merchandise exports reached $24 billion in 2013, an increase of $8.8 billion from 2009. The past decade saw the largest increase in value of U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa in history; U.S. goods exports have increased by 130 percent since 2000, or an average of 6.7 percent annually.

3. Small and medium-sized businesses are finding success in SSA. More than 92 percent of businesses exporting to Africa are considered small and medium-sized enterprises—those with fewer than 500 employees. They accounted for a 53 percent increase in the value of exports to the region from 2009-2012.

4. Most export growth originates from Texas, Louisiana, New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Georgia. In total, these states accounted for 60 percent of total exports and more than 70 percent of growth in exports to SSA in 2013. Mineral fuel and oil drilling, automotive parts and supplies, precious metals, and boilers and machinery parts are the top export sectors to SSA common among these states.

5. Total U.S. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa has grown by 37.5 percent since 2009. While world foreign direct investment position in 2012 was 27 percent greater than in 2009, U.S. FDI position grew by 40 percent during that period.

As evidence of the report’s positive outlook for U.S. trade with Sub-Saharan Africa watch this short video of many of the deal signings that happened last week at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum. 

If your business is ready to do business in Africa, visit Trade.gov/dbia or contact your nearest Export Assistance Center.

Census PoP Quiz Mobile App Challenges Knowledge of State Statistics

Census PoP Quiz Mobile App Challenges Knowledge of State Statistics

The U.S. Census Bureau today released Census PoP Quiz, a new interactive mobile application that challenges users’ knowledge of demographic facts for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The new app, which draws from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, aims to raise statistical literacy about the U.S. population.

Census PoP Quiz provides an introduction to the statistics that define our growing, changing nation and is  a great way for everyone to learn facts about all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the nation in a fun, relevant way.

With each state challenge completed, users will earn a badge to show their knowledge of various state demographic characteristics. After earning badges from every state, the app will unlock the final U.S. challenge. Throughout the quiz, players can share their badges on social media sites including Facebook and Twitter.

The app is free and available for both iPhone and Android smartphones and tablets. Features include:

  • Challenges that test knowledge of topics such as population, housing and commuting.
  • Questions that span locations in all 50 states and the nation’s capital.
  • Badges to share with contacts via social media connections.

Census PoP Quiz is the third in a series of Census Bureau mobile apps. The mobile initiative is one example of how the Census Bureau is working to make America’s statistics available anywhere, anytime to everyone and on any device — consistent with the Department of Commerce’s open data priorities and the federal government’s Digital Government Strategy.

NOAA-U.S. Coast Guard Exercise Aims to Improve U.S. Response, Capabilities to Deal with Future Contingencies in the Arctic

NOAA-U.S. Coast Guard Exercise Aims to Improve U.S. Response, Capabilities to Deal with Future Contingencies in the Arctic

As multi-year sea ice continues to disappear at a rapid rate, vessel traffic in the Arctic is on the rise. This is leading to new maritime concerns, especially in areas increasingly transited by the offshore oil and gas industry, cruise liners, military craft, tugs and barges, and fishing vessels. Keeping all of this new ocean traffic moving smoothly is a growing concern for safety's sake. It's also important to the U.S. economy, environment, and national security. But what happens if there’s a major incident such as an oil spill in this remote region?

This month, researchers from NOAA’s National Ocean Service and NOAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program are taking part in an Arctic exercise aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy that is part of an annual effort to ensure the Arctic remains a safe, secure, and environmentally protected region.

During the month-long ‘Arctic Shield’ mission, the USCG’s Research and Development Center will simulate an oil spill once the Healy makes it far enough north to test technologies at the ice edge.  The team will test a variety of technologies, including unmanned airborne and underwater sensing platforms.

The NOAA components of this exercise focus on testing technologies to improve oil spill reconnaissance and mapping to enable faster and safer decision-making while operating from a ship—a likely platform for responding to a spill in the Arctic due to lack of infrastructure and accommodations.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker Shares Economic Development Opportunities in California

Representative Barbara Lee, Secretary Penny Pritzker, Clifton Burch, President at Empire Engineering & Construction, Inc. and MBDA National Director Alejandra Castillo

Last year, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker unveiled the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda,” a bold policy agenda focused on boosting trade and investment, supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, and unleashing more government data. Yesterday, she took the Agenda on the road to California. Along with Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) National Director Alejandra Castillo, Secretary Pritzker spoke to local businesses and community leaders about the Obama Administration’s work to spur continued economic growth and job creation through support of exporters, entrepreneurs, and small, women- and minority-owned businesses.

Secretary Pritzker joined Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), a strong advocate for minority economic development and trade policy, at a regional economic development forum at the Oakland Airport, hosted by Lee. The Secretary delivered remarks highlighting a number of Commerce Department resources available to help foster economic growth. Noting that exporting is an essential tool for economic development, she discussed the Commerce Department’s NEI/NEXT initiative, a data-based, customer-driven effort to help U.S. companies increase their exports to international markets. Secretary Pritzker also talked about the work of the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership to help manufacturers boost productivity and growth, as well as investments by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to help attract new industries and create jobs. Through these and other tools, the Commerce Department is helping businesses in California and across the country to grow and hire. 

Following the Secretary’s remarks, MBDA National Director Castillo led a panel discussion on economic development that helped to connect local business leaders and economic development organizations with the expertise of the Department and its resources. The forum featured OPIC’s Director of Corporate Development, Alison Germak; Port of Oakland’s Director of Aviation, Deborah Ale Flint; Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. 

Before the event, Secretary Pritzker also participated in a roundtable discussion with East Bay business leaders, hosted by Rep. Lee. They discussed regional economic development, supplier diversity and the importance of gender and ethnic diversity in corporate leadership. Earlier in the day, Secretary Pritzker and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee met with leaders of local technology companies, including Twitter, Yelp, Kiva, and others, ​to discuss the Department of Commerce’s expanding role as “America’s Data Agency." Secretary Pritzker specifically asked how the government can most effectively make additional data available, and what public-private partnerships are currently serving as strong models that can be replicated when it comes to data dissemination.​ 

AAR Lands Multi-million Dollar Supply Chain Deal with Kenya Airways with Help of U.S. Government Advocacy Efforts

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.

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Highlights U.S. Commitment to Doing Business In Africa

Secretary Pritzker Joins Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum

Yesterday, at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker highlighted a number of Commerce Department efforts to help more American businesses explore opportunities in Africa’s fast-growing markets. The Forum, focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent, was part of President Obama’s three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the largest event that any U.S. president has ever convened with African heads of state or government.

Co-hosted by the Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies, the U.S.-Africa Business Forum was created to encourage greater U.S. investment in Africa, foster business deals, and help create jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. During remarks at the Forum, President Obama announced that U.S. businesses have already committed to investing $14 billion in clean energy, aviation, banking, and construction projects, among other commitments totaling more than $33 billion that support economic growth in Africa and thousands of U.S. jobs.

The Commerce Department leads the Doing Business in Africa (DBIA) campaign, which was launched in 2012 as part of the President Obama’s “U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa.” DBIA aims to increase U.S. trade promotion to Africa, address market barriers, expand the availability of trade financing, and attract more American companies to explore sub-Saharan Africa trade and investment opportunities.

In an op-ed published by Forbes, Secretary Pritzker and Michael Bloomberg touted the business deals signed during the forum and made the case for Africa as a prime investment location. “We know what is possible when American companies work hand-in-hand with African counterparts: we can help raise living standards and pave the way for future growth.” One example of the benefits of these partnerships can be seen through IBM, who opened Africa’s first major commercial technology research lab in Kenya to pioneer consumer-facing innovations aimed at African markets. This forum was only the beginning, and highlighted American companies willingness to increase their economic partnerships and investment in Africa.

Secretary Pritzker Highlights the Work by the Commerce Department to Improve Trade and Investment with Africa at the Historic U.S.-Africa Business Forum

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker delivered opening remarks at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, a day focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent. In her remarks, Secretary Pritzker stated that the U.S.-Africa economic relationship is fundamental to our mutual peace and prosperity. She discussed the work that the Commerce Department is doing to advance President Obama’s vision for the future of U.S.-Africa relations, including expanding the Foreign Commercial Service presence across the continent. She announced that the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency will lead 10 new trade missions to Africa and 10 reverse trade missions to the United States by 2020. She also announced the start of NIST’s Global Cities Challenge to catalyze the development of “smart cities,” as well as the launch of a new web portal for American businesses to explore opportunities in Africa. We want to make doing business in Africa easier for every business. Noting that increased trade and investment in Africa will spur growth on both sides of the Atlantic, Secretary Pritzker expressed her hope that the business and government leaders will keep the U.S.-Africa partnership open for more growth and success.

MEP Launches Competition to Fund Manufacturing Centers in 10 States

Making an Impact on U.S. Manufacturing

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today opened a competition to award new cooperative funding agreements for its Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers in 10 states. The competition is the first in a multiyear effort to update the funding structure to better match needs with resources in MEP's network of 60 centers. The MEP centers help small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers create and retain jobs, increase profits, and save time and money.

The current competition will fund awards for centers in Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The awards will provide half of each center's first-year operating funds, which the centers must match with funding from nonfederal sources. MEP anticipates awarding a total of nearly $26 million for the 10 centers.

Established in 1988, MEP is a public-private partnership that delivers a high return on investment to taxpayers. For every one dollar of federal investment, MEP helps businesses generate nearly $19 in new sales growth and $21 in new client investment. This translates into $2.2 billion in new sales annually. For every $1,978 of federal investment, MEP helps create or retain one manufacturing job.

Each MEP center works directly with area manufacturers to provide expertise and services tailored to their most critical needs, ranging from process improvement and workforce development to business practices and technology transfer. Through local and national resources, MEP centers have helped thousands of manufacturers reinvent themselves, increase profits, create jobs and establish a foundation for long-term business growth and productivity.

Commerce in the Community: Jail Education Solutions (JES) utilizes innovative workforce development model to reduce recidivism and prepare inmates for reentry into the job market.

Brian Hill, Co-Founder of Jail Education Solutions

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Commerce in the Community series highlighting the work of community leaders and organizations that are strengthening the middle class and providing ladders of opportunity for all Americans.

Below is an interview with Brian Hill, co-founder of Jail Education Solutions (JES). Prior to starting JES, Brian worked for General Mills and served as a business consultant. He received his undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University in Provo, UT and is currently finishing his JD/MBA at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

Q1: Tell us about Jail Education Solutions (JES). What is your mission and main focus?

JES is dedicated to improving inmate outcomes during incarceration and after release by incentivizing educational and vocational progress through tablet technology in correctional facilities. Investment in inmate education leads to reduced recidivism and lowers taxpayer liability. However, educational programming in correctional facilities is extremely limited and does not currently meet inmate demand. JES grants inmates access to an immense collection of resources, which would otherwise be unavailable, such as k-12 education, GED and college readiness; employment and other community resources; exploratory educational material; cognitive behavioral therapy and treatment and legal information. It does so at no additional cost to the institution or taxpayer. 

Q2: How did Jail Education Solutions get started?

The initial interest happened when I was young, and came from my father. He was a psychology professor at Folsom Prison, and his bedtime stories were his student’s papers. I saw so much human potential locked up, but at that age had no idea about the magnitude of the problem. It wasn’t until later in my first year at Northwestern Law School when I began work on a Social Impact Bond initiative for Cook County's Jail (Chicago) that I was reminded of the great need for opportunity. This passion, bolstered by the very innovative Sheriff Tom Dart, provided the space to test, learn, and create JES.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Joins U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue

Secretary Penny Pritzker Joins U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue

On the final day of her visit to India, Secretary Pritzker and Secretary of State John Kerry met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss opportunities for strengthening the U.S.-India commercial relationship. Their trip was the first U.S. Cabinet-level visit to New Delhi since Prime Minister Modi was elected.

Secretaries Kerry and Pritzker were in New Delhi for the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, which took place July 31. Launched in 2010, the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue is the highest level regularly scheduled dialogue between the two governments and provides a forum to discuss U.S.-Indian relations. Secretary Pritzker led discussions aimed at strengthening the commercial and economic ties between the U.S. and India, focusing on ways the U.S. can collaborate with India’s new government to promote growth in both nations. Secretary Pritzker underscored the desire of U.S. firms to do more business in India, and discussed how U.S. businesses can collaborate with India in the areas of infrastructure and manufacturing to help the country meet its development goals.

While in New Delhi, Secretary Pritzker joined the AmCham Infrastructure Committee at a breakfast meeting focused on receiving U.S. industry feedback on the opportunities and challenges that they face in the Indian infrastructure sector.

Secretary Pritzker also met with several other Indian government officials, including her counterpart, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman. During their discussion, Secretary Pritzker pressed forward on plans to create an infrastructure platform that will help U.S. firms serve as a partner on significant infrastructure projects in India. Secretary Pritzker also joined the Indian Minister of Finance, Defence, and Corporate Affairs Arun Jaitley for a joint bilateral meeting with Secretary Kerry. In addition, Secretary Pritzker met with Indian Minister of Power Piyush Goyal and discussed how American firms can use their capabilities and expertise to help India meet its ambitious energy-development goals.