Trade delegation returns upbeat from Africa
By Claudio Mendonça
A local delegation of 12 businesspeople and air and seaport officials returned this week from Kenya and Uganda with hopes of increasing trade and initiating flights between Africa and Miami.
Kenya's Ministry of Tourism hopes to open an office in Miami-Dade County by early 2006, said Miguel Southwell, Miami-Dade Aviation Department assistant director of business development and trip participant.
Africa has tremendous sales opportunities, Mr. Southwell said, comparing its potential to that offered 30 years ago by Latin America. In the 1970s, Latin America was viewed with suspicion by American businesses, he said, especially in regard to its political instability and low income.
"One of the purposes of our trip was to support Kenya Airways to fly to Miami," Mr. Southwell said.
No airlines now fly between Africa and Miami. Only 14 weekly flights from South Africa and 12 from Ethiopia serve other US airports.
Calling Kenya Airways Africa's most profitable airline, Mr. Southwell said the company is interested in creating a route from Nairobi into Miami via Lagos, Nigeria. A major obstacle is that most African nations, including Kenya and Uganda, do not meet International Civil Aviation Organization regulations and are not allowed to fly into any US airport.
Kenyan officials are trying to upgrade their airports and training of personnel, he said.
"Governments of those countries are working closely with the US in order to reduce some of the barriers," Mr. Southwell said
Also on the April 2-10 trip to East Africa was Desmond Alufohai, a trade development specialist for Miami-Dade's Jay Malina International Trade Consortium, who said Nairobi, Kenya, and Kampala, Uganda, seek to increase two-way trade.
Mr. Alufohai said he expects the mission to trigger $18.7 million in sales to Africa during the next two years. He also said two business people are already reaping benefits, including Rolando Gonzalez, owner of the Hilton Trading Co., which distributes machines that detect counterfeit dollars. In the near future, he said, Mr. Gonzalez will sell several of his devices in Africa.
Enormous possibilities exist to secure contracts to sell heavy-duty equipment for road construction in Africa, said Luis Varela, an owner of Florida Equipment & Parts Inc. in Doral, who went on the trip with his wife Jeannette.
"Many roads in Africa are in poor condition," said Mr. Varela, who said he had dozens of appointments with potential customers. "They need our products desperately and they end up buying from Europe and China."
Because the dollar is weaker than the euro, he said, US products have a price advantage.
"The euro is so high they prefer to buy machinery in the States," he said.
Another attempt to boost trade with Africa will come when US and African officials meet in Miami for the USAfrica transportation summit. Organized by the Foundation for Democracy for Africa, the Oct. 31-Nov.2 meeting is intended to bring air transportation regulators together with African carriers.
In 2003 US exports to Kenya equaled about $195.5 million and imports brought more than $249 million. Kenya's trade value with Miami-Dade rose from $13 million in 2003 to $15 million in 2004.
Ugandan imports in 2003 from the US totaled $41.7 million, mostly in equipment and services such as health care, nutrition and education. During the same year, the eastern African nation exported $34.8 million, mostly in primary products such as diamonds, tea, coffee and tobacco.
Details: Desmond Alufohai, (305) 375-1254.