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Over 250 Attendees at OAA's "From DC to Africa - Growing Local, Going Global" Business Seminar

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Over 250 Attendees at OAA's "From DC to Africa - Growing Local, Going Global" Business Seminar

The purpose of the seminar was to bring business owners and entrepreneurs in the District in direct contact with local government and federal agencies.

The Office on African Affairs’ business seminar: “DC to Africa: Growing Local, Going Global” held on Friday, April 6, at the Citywide Conference Center at One Judiciary Square brought over 250 business owners, entrepreneurs, government officials, community members and nonprofit leaders, and provided a powerful visual of the dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit of the District’s business community. The purpose of the seminar was to bring business owners and entrepreneurs in the District in direct contact with local government and federal agencies, and other relevant organizations that offer critical information, technical assistance and resources for both seasoned and aspiring entrepreneurs wishing to start or expand their business in DC, or go global through export initiatives and trade opportunities in Africa.

The all-day seminar was conducted in all six rooms of the Citywide Conference Center, and was kicked off at 9am with a buzzing networking breakfast which had entrepreneurs talking to one another and to over a dozen resource providers ready to offer information and support. At 10 am, Office on African Affairs Director, Ngozi Nmezi opened the event with welcoming remarks, along with the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) Director, Harold Pettigrew, and the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) Director of Business Development and Strategy, David Zipper who collectively echoed the timeliness and relevance of the seminar given the high turnout and attendance.

As Director Nmezi stated and participants reiterated throughout the day, “the seminar is timely because it ties directly into the Mayor’s key priority of creating jobs and of spurring the District’s economic development by supporting the participation of District businesses in global investment and trade through the State Trade and Export Promotion grant- Export DC program.” “This seminar’s focus on Africa is also extremely timely” continued Director Nmezi, “as the African continent is exercising its financial muscle at an unprecedented rate, and currently boasts some of the fastest growing economies in the world. OAA is committed to ensuring that these two opportunities are connected and harnessed by District residents and businesses.”

Also offering a keynote speech at the seminar was prominent DC business leader and President of Capitol Petroleum Group Joe Mamo an Ethiopian-American, shared his personal journey as an immigrant entrepreneur from Ethiopia whose humble beginnings as a gas station attendant have brought him to own 300 gas stations over twenty years later. He offered tips to entrepreneurs aspiring to build successful businesses: “DC is a great place to do business, use it.”

In the first segment dubbed ‘Growing Local’, the seminar featured nine agencies presenting on their services and programs for starting and growing businesses domestically in three different breakout groups: a) ‘What You Need to Do Business in DC’ for new entrepreneurs and businesses new to DC; b) ‘Local & Federal Contracting’ for established and/or certified business enterprises wanting to do business with government; and c) ‘Access to Capital’ for those looking to access loans to start or grow their businesses. Presenting agencies included the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD), Office of Contracting and Procurement (OCP); Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), US Small Business Administration District Office (SBA); Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) the DC Chamber of Commerce (DCCC) & DCC Foundation (DCCCF), the Washington DC Economic Partnership (WDCEP); Washington DC Women’s Business Center (DCWBC), and the Washington Area Community Investment Fund (WACIF). 

Following a lively networking lunch, the seminar transitioned to ‘Going Global – Exploring Trade and Investment Opportunities in Africa’ featuring three successive topics: a) Going Global, Why and How; b) Trade and Business Opportunities: Buyers and Demand; and c) Financing Trade and Investment Initiatives. These topics were covered collaboratively by the following agencies: DSLBD’s Export DC, the SBA’s International Trade Office, the Department of Commerce’s US Export Assistance Center (USEAC), the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and  Ex-Im Bank.  Also present were African embassy missions’ trade and economic representatives Dr. Stephen Momoh Baba, Minister of Trade of the Embassy of Nigeria and Ms. Inonge Limbambala, First Secretary of Trade of the Embassy of Zambia. Both portrayed, with exactitude, the economic opportunities and demands available in their countries.

When asked what she liked most about the seminar, one of the attendees responded with “the quality of the panel, the eagerness of the participants, and also the relevance of the topics was (so) on point – I’ve been waiting for this for so long!”

The Director of Office on African Affairs closed the event stating, categorically, that the Office on African Affairs will continue to provide a platform for connecting District businesses with opportunities and resources that can help them thrive, and the seminar is merely the beginning of OAA’s Business Engagement, Development and Support Series under the office’s Capacity Building Program.

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