Entrepreneurs, Mayor Penelas head to South Africa
By Paola Iuspa
A group of entrepreneurs accompanied by Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas are heading to South Africa and Botswana in search of new commercial opportunities.
The trade mission, scheduled for July 15-28 with a June 20 deadline for reservations, will take place almost a year after the Mayor's Trade Task Force held its first mission to the region to identify new markets, said Dwayne Wynn, co-chairman of the task force.
The three-year-old, 26-member task force's role is to hold missions, seminars, festivals and workshops promoting African affairs and commerce, he said.
Enterprise Florida, a private-public group charged with promoting trade and which has an office in Johannesburg, will help organize business seminars with Southern African companies interested in forming partnerships, joint ventures, products and bilateral trade, Mr. Wynn said.
Bryant Salter, director of African Trade Expansion with Enterprise Florida, said the Johannesburg office, which opened in February, was created to develop partnerships and linkages in the region for Florida's entrepreneurs to take advantage of.
"Our office in Africa produced 20 trade leads in May," Mr. Salter said, referring to trade opportunities originated in South Africa and available to anyone in the state. "Anyone who wants to know about trade leads needs to be on Enterprise Florida's mailing list."
Mr. Salter said his office is planning a trade mission to Morocco later this year.
Mr. Penelas said strengthening trade with nations in Africa with emerging democracies and stabilizing economies could lead the sub-Saharan countries to become as important trading partners to South Florida as Latin America was 25 years ago.
Florida's trade with South Africa was $127 million in 2000, down from $300 million in 1998. Trade with Botswana increased to $1.5 million in 2000 from $1.2 million in 1998, according to Enterprise Florida's records.
During the mission, the task force will promote the county's infrastructure including Miami International Airport and the Port of Miami, Mr. Wynn said. To do this, the group is requesting $7,500 from Enterprise Florida and $2,500 from the county for marketing materials and administration costs.
Establishing contacts with economic development agencies, chambers of commerce and small business will be what the participants can expect, he said. Visiting historical sites and points of interests and receiving briefings on each city from the US embassy are also scheduled.
The mission costs $800 plus $1,950 for the round-trip airfare. Hotel expenses in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban in South Africa and Gaborone in Botswana are not included.
"We estimate to spend 21/2 days in each city," said Mr. Wynn, president and CEO of Afro-Caribbean Trading Group, Inc.
Terry Percy, a task force member who joined last year's mission, said he plans to go this time as well.
"I had an enlightened experience," he said. "I made contacts that I talk to almost every day. I was able to start a foundation that sends over used computers - although we have some problems with the shipping. I am also talking to some businesses" dealing with precious metals and stones.
Khalid Salahuddin, Port of Miami's deputy director, said the port has always sent representatives to missions in Africa and "I don't see how it will be different."
Angela Simons, trade development specialist with the port and a task force member, said although the port does not have money budgeted to improve infrastructure in ports trading with South Florida, county officials are willing to share information on security issues and offer training to ports abroad.