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Connecting Wisconsin to Africa

Growing markets offer export opportunities

MADISON, WI. SEPT. 14, 2021 – Seven out of 10 of the world’s fastest-growing national economies are in Africa. But not one African country makes the list of Wisconsin’s top 30 export partners.

A new virtual trade venture to Africa is designed to help Wisconsin companies change that.

“Most WEDC trade ventures take place in one country or one region,” said Missy Hughes, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) secretary and CEO. “While the COVID-19 pandemic makes international travel difficult, technology allows us to expand our reach and offer participating companies opportunities to talk with customers and partners in more than 30 countries.”

The virtual trade venture is set for Dec. 7-16 and WEDC representatives located in 13 African countries will work to find potential business partners for each participant.

Finding those local partners is the key to succeeding in Africa, said Maureen Muldoon, vice president of international business development for Trek Bicycle Corp., based in Waterloo. Trek has been selling its high-end bicycles in South Africa since the 1990s and now has a subsidiary located there.

“My advice would be to put your boots on the ground to understand the market and local culture,” Muldoon said. “Be patient to find the right partners that align to your vision and your values as a company. You will be better off in the long run.”

Another Wisconsin company that has found a successful niche in Africa is Eau Claire-based U-Fuel. U-Fuel designs and manufactures many types of modular fuel stations. U-Fuel ships mini-marts in three 40-foot shipping containers that can be set up in rural areas where there is no reliable electricity.

U-Fuel, which has taken part in WEDC trade ventures in the past, now has stations throughout Africa.

“Africa has a big need for energy and agricultural products,” said Andy Svedarsky, U-Fuel president. “We are looking to expand in Africa. We know there is tremendous opportunity.”

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which went into effect this year, is an agreement between 55 countries that creates a single continental market for goods and services. Taken as one market, AfCFTA is the world’s largest in terms of geography and by 2023 is expected to overtake China to become the world’s largest market by population.

Companies that sign up for WEDC’s virtual trade venture receive market research and customized one-on-one meetings with potential customers and partners, needed interpreter services and a briefing that covers the business climate, culture and strategies for success. The subsidized fee for each company to participate is $500.

Because of the time difference, the virtual meetings will take place over two weeks in the mornings in Wisconsin and the afternoons in Africa.

Register by Nov. 5.

To register or learn more about the virtual trade venture, go to: wedc.org/africavirtualtradeventure.

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