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  September 1st, 2017 | Written by

Miami: Africa’s Gateway to the Americas

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Geographic location plays an important role in international trade, a fact that makes it challenging for landlocked countries to significantly grow trade. Location impacts how easily businesses can reach international markets and how quickly they can access their customers and acquire new ones.

Miami, Florida, is recognized globally as the trade and logistics gateway of the Americas (North America, South America and the Caribbean). This is largely due to its strategic location at the epicenter of the Western Hemisphere.

The same advantages which position Miami as an Americas hub also presents opportunities for concerns in sub-Saharan Africa seeking to penetrate Western Hemisphere markets. This is also an opportunity for investors and service providers, subjects which are currently under discussion.

Miami has a natural ecosystem that favors trade and tourism: proximity to Latin America and the Caribbean, a multicultural and multilingual workforce, high concentrations of corporate and financial resources, and its location in Florida, the third largest state in the US with a population of over 20 million. Florida has the fourth largest economy in the nation, it is the sixth largest exporting state, it has the second largest foreign trade zone network and it has a thriving tourism industry. With favorable weather condition all year round, it is a preferred vacation destination receiving over 100 million visitors annually.

Apart from Miami’s unique location, other factors that contributed to its branding as a global trade hub include a robust trade and infrastructure system. Miami has integrated multi-modal transportation systems and these facilities go through regular optimization upgrades. Miami International Airport (MIA) is ranked # 1 in the US for international air cargo and # 10 globally. It is served by more than 100 airlines and generates over $33 billion in annual revenue. Also, PortMiami is a global gateway for trade and tourism, the “Cruise Capital of the World,” with annual economic impact of over $41 billion.

In addition, Miami has a rich network of international trade and economic development agencies with 70 foreign consular offices, many chambers of commerce including bi-national chambers as well as over 1500 multinational corporations. These organizations have worked together over the years to develop the city’s unique brand, create a strong platform for global trade and make Miami an attractive place to live, work and play.

Interestingly, Miami’s bearing on the global map also positions it as the premier gateway for two-way trade between Africa and the Americas market, being the closest US city to mainland West Africa. Specifically, direct air distance from Miami, Florida to Dakar, Senegal is about 4,110 miles which takes approximately eight and a half hours on a non- stop flight.

However, such direct air connection does not currently exist. This is an opportunity for investors and African airlines to develop the connection for both passenger and cargo. MIA is exploring options to establish direct flights to Africa in its effort to expand global route network.

This Miami-Africa proximity advantage has been the focal point of discussions at forums and on trade missions lately and many trade development organizations in Miami are intensifying efforts to create the bridge for trade expansion into Africa.

For example, Enterprise Florida (EFI), Miami-Dade County, World Trade Center Miami (WTCM) and a network of other trade development institutions are helping businesses to create new market access and increase two-way trade with Africa. In March 2017, EFI embarked on a trade mission to South Africa with a team of 18 companies. In May 2017, a joint effort of the office of Economic Development & International Trade of Miami-Dade County and PortMiami facilitated a trade mission to five African countries – Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. Also, in June 2017, the WTCM launched a new program that will enhance market access for goods originating from Africa into the Americas market. This was done in addition to creating a dedicated pavilion for Africa at its annual Americas Food and Beverage Show and Conference.

Global access continues to be a key component to success in today’s international business environment. Miami perhaps has the easiest accessibility to multiple markets in the Americas and this is the time for African countries to leverage this advantage for market connectivity.

Sub-Saharan African countries currently benefiting under the African Growth and Opportunity Act need to start thinking beyond the market scope that AGOA provides. While AGOA offers market access to the United States, using Miami as a gateway to the Americas would extend Africa’s reach to other regions such as the high-potential South America and the Caribbean markets.

Kemi Arosanyin is an International Trade Development Specialist and Director for Africa Trade Expansion Program at the World Trade Center Miami. She writes, speaks, and advises on trade and investment in sub-Saharan Africa.