IU Kelley School of Business offers assistance to companies looking to increase exports to Africa

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An official oversees work inside Mombasa Port on Kenya's Indian Ocean coast. Stuart Price/Kenyan Ministry of East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism

While much attention is often placed on Indiana's largest trading partners -- Canada, Mexico and Germany -- few Hoosiers realize the potential for state exports to African countries. A conference this week highlights the opportunities for state firms to increase revenues by doing business on the continent.

Indiana University's Kelley School of Business will present a daylong conference in Indianapolis that should be useful for many Indiana companies, "Doing Business in and with Sub-Saharan Africa."

The program will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 12 in the Campus Center at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, 420 University Blvd. The cost is $20, although students can register for just $10.

The conference is part of the public mission of the federally funded IU Center for International Business Education and Research, which is housed in the Kelley School's Institute for International Business in Bloomington. The IU CIBER is one of only 17 such centers funded by a Title VI grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

In previous years, the center has organized similar conferences about doing business in Russia, Ukraine, Myanmar, the Middle East and North Africa. This year's event is being organized with assistance from the African Studies Program in the IU School of Global and International Studies in Bloomington.

"Mind the Gap: Identifying Opportunities for Export Expansion in Indiana," a study produced by the Indiana Business Research Center and funded by the IU CIBER, noted that Africa as a continent is importing goods at a rate higher than $17.5 billion annually.

Indiana participates in the manufacturing of Africa's top three imports: transportation equipment, which accounts for nearly a quarter of its total imports, industrial equipment and chemicals, the study said.

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A Kenyan worker checks the mixing tank on the production line earlier this year at Insta Products in Nairobi, Kenya. Russell Watkins/Department for International Development

The conference is expected to attract a mix of business executives, policy makers, academics and students.

Participants will learn from experts and gain insights and information needed to enter and succeed in the emerging markets of Africa. The event is designed to help them build important business connections with government officials, other businesses and industry experts.

A special focus of the IU conference will be finding connections with three countries: Ghana, Kenya and South Africa, which is the largest importer of foreign goods. It also has industries that align well with what Indiana produces. Hoosier state exports there surpassed $100 million three years ago. Like South Africa, Ghana has a large demand for industrial and personal vehicles.

"One of the chief missions of the IU Center for International Business Education and Research is to leverage the strengths of IU and the Kelley School to help create economic opportunities for the state as well as the nation," said LaVonn Schlegel, executive director of the center and the Institute for International Business.

"We hope this event is useful for Indiana companies who are looking for new markets for their products and services, as well as people in the nations using them," she added.

The conference will begin with a keynote presentation on the "Power Africa Initiative" by Lida Fitts, regional director for Sub-Saharan Africa for the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

It will feature three panel discussions about challenges, marketing and financing strategies, and best practices.

Presenters will include Shakira Motan, trade commissioner in the South African Consulate; Eliot Pence, director of McLarty Associates; Randy Goode, senior vice president for international banking at PNC Bank; and Ashley Bubna, an international trade specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration.

Eric Armacost, a lender relations specialist with the Indiana District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration, will present marketing and financial strategies for working in the various regions.

The program will wrap up with a discussion on best practices and lessons learned featuring George Srour, founder and chief dreamer at Building Tomorrow Inc.; David Ketchum, president and founder of Mission Resource International; and Toby Malichi, founder, chairman and global chief executive of Malichi Group Worldwide.

More information also is available from Vicki Dickson, program manager at the Institute for International Business, dicksonv@indiana.edu or 812-855-0915.

Register for the conference