Monday, May 20, 2024

Dallas takes center stage in global trade relations as it hosts Africa Business Summit

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Dallas will play host to more than a thousand national and international travelers next week with the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center being the home of the 2024 U.S.-Africa Business Summit.

It’s an annual conference that brings together top government officials and entrepreneurs from the U.S. and Africa to forge stronger business ties between the two regions. It’s the first time the event is taking place outside of Washington D.C. and African countries, and likely won’t be the last time Dallas hosts it.

The event begins on Monday, May 6 and runs until Thursday, May 9. It will feature dozens of panels, roundtable conversations and networking opportunities for business and world leaders.

Africa and Dallas are more alike than one might think. Africa is also experiencing intense population growth with each country seeing an annual growth rate of 3% and investors see it as a tantalizing opportunity as the continent has a strong economic outlook featuring an annual 3.8% growth in gross domestic product.

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That, along with an easy connection to D-FW International Airport and Dallas’ robust and expansive business culture, made the city a perfect backdrop for this year’s summit, said John Olajide, chairman of the Corporate Council on Africa, the business association responsible for hosting the event.

“When people think of the U.S., they think of New York or Los Angeles. But we wanted to showcase Dallas because what’s happening here is special,” Olajide said. “This is the most prosperous economic region in the country, maybe the world. There’s magic here, so I had to work with my colleagues to make this event happen here.”

Olajide, who was born in a poor neighborhood in Lagos, Nigeria, is no stranger to Dallas.

He moved to the city in the early 2000′s and later became a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, served as chairman for the Dallas Regional Chamber and built Dallas-based healthcare tech company Axxess from a startup into one of the city’s many unicorns, a private startup valued at over $1 billion.

The importance of the event is not lost on Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson. To him, it’s a reflection that the city’s business climate isn’t slowing down any time soon.

“Hosting this important event is a testament to the success of Dallas as an internationally recognized leader in business, culture, and entertainment,” he said in a statement. “As the headquarters of eleven Fortune 500 companies and home to two world-class airports, Dallas is the perfect location for this summit. Through this summit, Dallas will continue to attract international tourists and build relationships with foreign governments and global investors.”

Representatives from African and American industries like agriculture, finance, energy, sports, telecommunications, health, infrastructure, security and much more will be at the event.

The summit will be an opportunity for entrepreneurs and top-level executives from each region to find synergy between one another, said Anne Aliker, group head of corporate and investment banking for Standard Bank, the largest bank and financial services group in Africa. Standard Bank is one of the summit’s sponsors, as well.

Anne Aliker, group head of corporate and investment banking for Standard Bank, will have several speaking roles at the 2024 U.S. – Africa Business Summit.(Standard Bank)

“There’s a lot of trade and investment between the U.S., Texas specifically, and Africa. When I think of it from that perspective, I think there’s a lot of opportunity for us to communicate with all types of companies,” she said. “Other industries, like oil and energy are going to find a lot of synergy between themselves and the people they’ll meet at the event.”

It’s an opportunity for Americans to become exposed to Africa’s growing business climate and potentially open the door for Texas to lead the way in investing in African businesses and companies. But that connection flows both ways, said Florie Liser, president and CEO of the CCA.

“We have a lot to share and exchange. We can learn from each other and a lot of opportunities to build partnerships that are mutually beneficial both for US companies and workers, as well as for African companies and workers,” she said. “It’s a win-win all the way around.”

Some companies with prominent Texas ties already have businesses established in Africa, like Exxon Mobil, Caterpillar, AT&T, Amazon, Google, Chevron and much more. Strengthening existing bonds and creating new ones will send a strong message that Africa is open for business, especially with Texan dollars, Olajide said.

“I’ve always believed that the private sector is the driver of economic growth. So this is an opportunity to showcase to the audience, particularly private sector members, all over Africa, about what growth can look like and how it can happen,” he said. “We’re ready to capitalize and accelerate more growth for companies in our region.”

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