The U.S. Commercial Service, the trade promotion arm of the Department of Commerce’s (DOC) International Trade Administration, maintains offices in over 100 U.S. cities and 75 countries around the world. Working closely with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. (EXIM), U.S. Commercial Service international trade specialists provide valuable services to help U.S.-based companies sell their goods to international markets. Daniel Gaines, Senior International Trade Specialist in the U.S. Commercial Service office in Northern Virginia, is about to embark on a six-week assignment in sub-Saharan Africa, and shares his perspectives on opportunities for small businesses in the region.
Interviewer: Please tell us a little about your current position at the U.S. Commercial Service Office in Northern Virginia.
Daniel: In my role as Senior International Trade Specialist I work with businesses located in Virginia and Washington, DC, particularly companies in the Agribusiness, Business Services, Education and Mining sectors. My role is to educate companies on the export tools available to them from the Department of Commerce and other government agencies, and to help them get actively involved in exporting for the first time or help them expand their exporting activities into new markets or to new customers.
Interviewer: Please tell us about your assignment in Nigeria and how the Department of Commerce helps small businesses who want to do business in Africa.
Daniel: My assignment to Nigeria will be to serve as Acting Deputy Senior Commercial Officer in the U.S. Consulate in Lagos. In this capacity, I will focus on the day-to-day management of the Commercial Service operations in Nigeria.
With a growing population and developing economies, opportunities abound in parts of Africa for U.S. small businesses. However, since many of these economies in Africa are in an emerging phase, there exists some amount of uncertainty as well as unknowns as to how one conducts business there. Fortunately for American companies, the DOC’s Commercial Service has an in-country presence that serves as a sounding board, a trusted guide and a tool to be leveraged in order for companies to find tailored market intelligence, address market entry barriers and identify potential partners to help sell their products/services into these markets. Our Gold Key Matching service, for example, brings companies from the U.S. together with pre-screened buyers, representatives, distributors, government contacts and/or licensing or joint venture partners in the local country to pursue joint business interests. Bottom line: American companies have us by their side from the beginning of their exploration of a market to celebrating new business relationships and deals.
Interviewer: What would you like to accomplish during your time as Acting Deputy Senior Commercial Officer in Nigeria?
Daniel: I’d like to focus on three priorities:
- Successfully execute existing programs and services to afford our Senior Commercial Officer additional bandwidth to focus on high-level U.S.-Nigeria commercial issues that will result in increased commercial activity between our two countries;
- Create some updated guidance that complements our existing Country Commercial Guide for sectors where uncertainty exists for many U.S. exporters; and
- Highlight resources like the EXIM Bank for any U.S. company considering Nigeria as a way to mitigate risk and offer attractive terms to their Nigerian counterpart, especially in a time where inflation has affected the Nigerian currency in recent past.
Interviewer: Do you have any expectations about your upcoming assignment?
Daniel: While I have experience in visiting and working in a few countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, this will be my first time in Nigeria and I’m very excited for the opportunity. I know I’ll work around the clock, and hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to enjoy some of the infamously spicy food and good music from our host country.
Interviewer: Thank you, Daniel, for sharing your experiences with us. Best of luck with your assignment and I look forward to catching up again when you return. Thank you also to you and your colleagues at the U.S. Commercial Service for your support of EXIM Bank and our products for U.S.-based exporters.
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