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EXIM Bank: Supporting U.S. Business and Driving Development in Africa
January 26, 2017 Elizabeth Thomas, Business Development Specialist, Office of Small Business

From bridges to water-treatment plants, fire trucks to advanced surgical equipment, since 2009 the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM Bank) has supported more than $7 billion in transactions to modernize infrastructure, improve health and well-being, and provide tools to enhance public safety in Africa. EXIM is not new to doing business in Africa; in fact, the Bank has financed exports to Angola, Ethiopia and Egypt since the 1940s. Recently, parts of Africa have been hit hard due to falling prices of oil and other commodities. Despite the economic challenges, EXIM Bank is taking the long view, and the U.S. remains one of the largest foreign direct investors on the continent.  

Furthering EXIM’s commitment to the region, Fred P. Hochberg, Chairman and President of EXIM Bank, and Admassu Tadesse, President and Chief Executive of Eastern and Southern Africa Trade Development Bank (PTA Bank), signed a memorandum of understanding on September 21, 2016, at the U.S. Business Africa Forum with the goal of increasing the trade of goods and services between the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa. In his remarks to forum attendees, Chairman Hochberg cited changes that are taking place, “The entire continent is making meaningful reforms: cutting red tape, easing currency and capital controls, and promoting small and medium-sized enterprises. There is opportunity, and EXIM and other U.S. government agencies are here to scout them, support them and when appropriate, finance them.”

EXIM doesn’t compete with the private sector -  the Bank works to provide support where the private sector is unable or unwilling to do business. Here are some examples of how EXIM Bank empowered U.S. companies to collaborate with public and private sector organizations overseas, driving economic opportunity in Africa and at home.

Building Bridges, Connecting Communities around the World

Bridges do more than simply span waterways or valleys. They are lifelines, connecting residents to schools, hospitals and economic opportunities. 

Acrow Bridge, a small business in Parsippany, New Jersey, has been designing, manufacturing and supplying prefabricated modular steel bridges for over 60 years to more than 80 countries. The company has installed over 1,500 bridges in developing nations over the last ten years.  One of the challenges they face is that many of the countries they serve have not made the investment in infrastructure that facilitates movement of goods and people.  Another challenge is many governments are unable to make up-front, short- term investments that deliver long-term economic results.  If financial resources are not available for example, a country may limit their investment to two bridges one year and three bridges the next year, rather than the 50 to 150 bridges that are needed to transform an area. Working with EXIM, Acrow has installed almost 200 bridges in Cameroon and Zambia, providing modern infrastructure, connecting goods to markets and paving the way for economic development.

 Delivering Dependable Energy to West Africa

In an article titled “Modern Energy for All”, the International Energy Agency writes, “Modern energy services are crucial to human well-being and to a country’s economic development. Access to modern energy is essential for the provision of clean water, sanitation and healthcare and for the provision of reliable and efficient lighting, heating, cooking, mechanical power, transportation and telecommunications services.” The article goes on to say that sub-Saharan Africa is the most electricity-poor region in the world. One California company is working to change that.

Combustion Associates Inc. (CAI), of Corona, Calif., manufactures gas turbine power generation systems. Kusum Kavia, President of CAI, founded the minority-and-woman-owned small business in 1989. The company started as an environmental consulting firm, before expanding to engineering, manufacturing, and installation services. With the support of EXIM, CAI now exports to Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Benin and other parts of Africa. In 2014, CAI was recognized in a speech by President Obama for the successful installation of a power plant in the Republic of Benin. In his speech, President Obama said, “It’s been a win for their company, Combustion Associates, because exports to Africa have boosted their sales, which means they’ve been able to hire more workers here in the United States.” He also said, “It’s been a win for Benin and its people, because more electricity for families and businesses, jobs for Africans at the power plant because the company hires locally and trains those workers.”

CAI continues to expand into Africa, bringing dependable energy where it is needed most.

Helping Physicians save Lives Worldwide

According to Egypt’s 2014 Constitution, Article 18 on healthcare “commits the government to improving access to public health facilities and establishing a comprehensive healthcare system for all Egyptians.”

DemeTECH, a Florida small business manufacturer of surgical sutures and blades, expanded their business into more than 100 countries and grew revenue by more than 400 percent with the help of EXIM. Today, 80 percent of their revenue comes from exports to international markets in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Australia. Working with EXIM Bank, DemeTECH was able to export about $10 million in advanced medical sutures and blades to Egypt, providing healthcare providers innovative medical devices to help their patients receive the highest quality care.  

Business with Africa is not a One-Way Street

According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative website, in 2015 imports from Africa outstripped U.S. exports by $1 billion. Although this is a decrease from earlier years, it illustrates the important role both regions play as trading partners. Like almost everything else, economic activity is cyclical, fluctuating between periods of expansion and contraction. As the reforms take hold and economies improve, EXIM will still be there, creating opportunities for Africa.

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