US Ex-Im Bank supporting investments in Africa

May 12, 1999 02:00 AM

American businesses need to take greater risks to step up their investments in Africa, James Harmon , the head of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, said.
He said these firms should go after new markets in Africa as aggressively as companies have from the former colonial powers, Britain, France and Portugal.
"U.S. businesses have not done as well as they should have and need to become more competitive," Harmon said during a workshop on Africa at the Ex-Im Bank's annual conference.
More than 1,400 exporters, financiers and government officials took part in the two-day meeting aimed at helping U.S. businesses to make more sales in emerging market nations and meet growing demand for U.S. products abroad.
The Ex-Im Bank provides credits and loan guarantees for U.S businesses investing overseas.

Harmon said his organisation would boost financing for export of U.S. goods and services to 45 sub-Saharan African countries to $ 400 mm and possibly more in 1999, compared to $ 49 mm last year.
While some of the money provided goes to finance big ticket items such as pipelines or aircraft purchases, Harmon said small and medium size U.S. business should realise they can sell to Africa as well.
For example, Princeton Medical Enterprises of Atlanta recently sold $ 1 mm in diagnostic medical equipment to the largest hospital in West Africa, located in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Other agreements have provided construction equipment to Uganda and cold storage containers to Ghana.
U.S. goods currently account for 7 % of all imports to sub-Sahara Africa and Harmon said there was ample scope to expand that figure.

Ex-Im Bank has a new Africa pilot program that allows it to do traditional export financing in 32 sub-Sahara countries, up from 18 a year ago. Bank officials said it was even possible to do business in countries like Angola, where a civil war has resumed, and Liberia, which is recovering from an internal conflict.

Source: AP via Newspage
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