SHARING KNOWLEDGE—Bill Strickland, CEO of Manchester Bidwell shares his philosophy with Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, governor of Osun State Nigeria as Paulo Nzambi, executive vice president/COO, Manchester Bidwell Corporation/National Center for Arts and Technology looks on. Nzambi is representing the Center during the August mission trip. (Photo by Diane I. Daniels)

Officials from the Christian Evangelistic Economic Development, Inc., the Manchester Bidwell Training Center, M.O.K.A. Art Gallery and Carnegie Mellon University are a part of the voyagers traveling to Nigeria for a 10-day business mission trip.

“After several successful visits to the region from high ranking members of the delegation of the Governor of Osun State, Nigeria, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, he thought it was time for businesses he has been visiting and communicating with to see what his country is about” explained Rufus Idris, the executive director of CEED, this region’s mission organizer.

The mission is comprised of 20 business executives, entrepreneurs, and elected officials from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New York City. The goal is for delegates to leave Nigeria with contacts, memorandums of understanding, letters of intent, and where applicable, contracts for profitable trade and business unions between the United States and the State of Osun.

“This trade mission is in alignment with President Obama administration’s policies encouraging the development of free markets and an increase in the volume of business between Sub-Saharan Africa and the United States under the African Growth and Opportunity Act and President Obama’s National Export Initiative,” said Idris.

Other Pittsburgh groups taking part in the mission include representatives from the Braddock Pot Shop; a ceramic-water filter factory, Point Park University’s, the International Fashion House, and DID and Associates. Out of town organizations involved are the African and Caribbean Business Council of Philadelphia and WURA Arts Services and Productions, LLC of New York City.

Philadelphia representatives are; Monarch Environmental Services, NextGen Aquaponics, Safari Holding Solutions and MJH Consulting. All participants are leaders in the fields of agriculture, health care, education, mining, energy and environment, waste management, housing and infrastructure, transportation, retail trade, import and export, travel and tourism, and cultural development.       

“We are aiming for this mission to serve as and to facilitate introductions to current business opportunities in Osun State and to develop strong and continuous relationships with key decision makers and leaders in the Nigerian private and public sectors,” pointed out Dr. Azuka Anyim, president of the African and Caribbean Business Council based in Philadelphia.

Mission organizers indicate that building relations with Nigeria and Osun State is significant because of the NEI aiming to double total U.S. exports by 2015. Nigeria has been identified as a “priority market” for U.S. companies, who in turn can assist in diversifying Nigeria’s economy through trade, technologies, and services. With Nigeria being considered the world’s eighth largest nation totaling a current population of 155 million and expected to grow to 289 million by the year 2050, leading analysts predict that when the country’s gross domestic product is rebased in 2014, Nigeria will also emerge as the continent’s largest economy, rivaling Africa’s hitherto economic giant South Africa, and evidencing new and unexploited opportunities for expanded trade.

“When Gov. Aregbesola, visited us in February it was decided that it is necessary for the two entities to continue establishing partnerships in the areas of transformational leadership practices, to build business-to-business partnerships and to develop win-win investment opportunities, educational exchange programs, import and export relationships, green technology and environment, health care, agriculture and cultural exchanges and tours,” said Idris pointing out that CEED is excited to be able to be an essential piece in the process.

Considered a rising star in the Nigerian political firmament, Governor Aregbesola has focused on strengthening Osun State in the areas of agriculture, economic development, youth employment, education and security. His bold vision for the state is encapsulated in a Six Point Integral Action Plan to banish poverty, hunger and unemployment; to restore healthy living; to promote functional education and to enhance communal peace and progress. “His plan seeks to ensure that the fruits of economic development positively impact as many lives as possible,” says Osun State’s director of general, Office of Economic Development and Partnerships, Dr. Charles ‘Diji Akinola.

Activities during the Aug. 17-27 excursion include a Trade Mission Briefing Reception, hosted by the US Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria. Expected participants will include representative from the U.S. Embassy, the Nigerian American Chamber of Commerce Lagos Nigeria, the Office of Economic Development and Partnerships Governor’s Office, State of Osun, CEED, and the office of Commissioner for Commerce, Cooperatives and Empowerment.

Other scheduled mission activities will entail plenary sessions, business to business meetings, state investors’ meetings, historic sites and business project visits and the Osun-Osogbo Festival Celebration.


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