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West African products that are in high demand in the United States

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The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) provides eligible sub-Saharan African countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market for a wide range of products. To find out more about the potential for West African companies to export products to the U.S. under AGOA, Betsy Henderson spoke to Michael Clements, Chief of Party of the West Africa Trade & Investment Hub, a USAID-funded initiative that aims to catalyse economic growth in the region. Clements also highlighted untapped opportunities in West Africa’s agribusiness sector.

Discuss the potential for West African companies to export to the U.S. under AGOA. Can you highlight some products for which there is high demand in the U.S.?

AGOA is an extremely useful instrument for West African exporters to gain preferential entry for their products into the U.S. on a quota-free, tariff-free basis, but still subject to particular terms and conditions. Exporting through AGOA means West African producers and exporters can land products in the U.S. at a cheaper price, which will make their products more competitive in their chosen U.S. sales markets.

When Covid-19 struck and we couldn’t move around the region early last year, we decided to pursue our AGOA promotion activities through an ongoing series of webinars. Within a few months, we realised that teaching West African producers and exporters how to use AGOA was merely step one. The second step was helping them get customers in the U.S. We are developing a business linkages programme with one of our major connection points in the U.S, which is the West African diaspora.

We are currently focusing on two particular product types for this export strategy. The first is niche fast-moving consumer goods products, like dried mango, various fruit jams, sugar-free chocolate, and canned catfish. West Africans living in the U.S. love canned catfish and it is flying off the shelves; there are not many American companies producing this product. We have about a dozen products in this category and hope to add others once we can verify the product production is done sustainably. The last thing you want is delivery of a 40-foot container today and then never to be able to do it again.

The second product stream is high-end fashion products manufactured in Senegal. We’re not talking about mass-market products, but rather one-of-a-kind dresses made from local West African materials. This year, some of the designers we work with will participate in MAGIC, a large fashion event in the U.S., to showcase their products to American customers.

The world has changed so much, you don’t need mass production in order to survive. Companies like Amazon and Alibaba have facilitated this shift; it means a fashion designer in West Africa – for example, a one-person business in Senegal making 10 units a month – can easily sell products one at a time on Amazon. It’s an incredible opportunity; exporting doesn’t only entail filling a large container, it is possible to export goods one package at a time by selling custom items online and shipping products through DHL.

Do you have any advice for West African companies that want to export to the U.S. under AGOA?

Our best advice is: now is the time for any West African companies that want to increase exports or enter the U.S. market. There is currently an increased level of awareness and demand for products that appeal to the social consciousness of American consumers. The current demand-side hot buttons for which U.S. consumers are prepared to pay premium prices include organic production and Fairtrade certification (or similar) that can attest to no-child-labour, gender equality, social inclusion and do-no-harm environmentally. That’s why products outside the mainstream commodity products, such as beeswax (a natural wax produced by honey bees) and sesame seeds, are doing so well. Discerning consumers with a social conscience are prepared to pay higher prices for these products.

When considering which products to export to the U.S., I would also encourage producers to consider the competitiveness of their products. It is pointless trying to export a small volume of a commodity product from West Africa into the U.S. as you won’t be able to compete. You’ve got to pick a niche product; ideally, something that isn’t easily manufactured or produced in volume in the U.S.

The Trade Hub is very active in Nigeria’s agriculture sector. What are some of the top farming-related opportunities for the private sector in Nigeria?

We see opportunities in response to food security challenges, particularly in terms of scaling up production and the processing of staple food crops both for local consumption and regional exports. Primarily, this would mean scaled up or new maize and rice production.

In my own experience working with agriculture projects in Nigeria over the past decade, I’ve been impressed with the changes in the government’s focus on increased food self-sufficiency. The Buhari administration has enacted many good, common-sense policies relating to local food production from a food security sustainability and import substitution point of view, not only for rice but also for maize, soya beans, and cowpeas, all of which are staple crops in Nigeria. I have watched Nigeria take one step at a time and move away from an oil dependency to a more diversified economy over the past 10 years, and the change has been profound. The country has magnificent, fertile soil, available arable land and ideal climatic conditions for many types of agriculture.

In Nigeria, we are mandated by USAID to work in five value chains in seven states under the Feed the Future programme. We are now considering additional value chains such as dairy, cassava and peanuts. Besides staple commodities like rice and maize, there are opportunities in several niche and specialist crops like ginger and sesame seed.

The Trade Hub recently made co-investments in beeswax (West Africa) and rice (Nigeria). Can you explain the potential in these two industries?

The West African beeswax industry is a niche producer of exportable products (including waxes for the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, candle and food industries) that are in high demand in the U.S. It is actually more labour intensive than capital intensive. Barriers to entry in this industry are relatively low; knowledge and experience are much bigger challenges than the size of land required or the initial construction cost of hives and processing facilities. Well-funded start-ups and new greenfield operations will do well commercially because the demand in the U.S. for the finished products will always exceed the supply from West Africa in the short term.

Rice in Nigeria is a well-known conundrum. The demand for local consumption is much greater than the local supply. Ramping up local production to replace imported rice is a perennial challenge for the government. The Trade Hub strongly supports the drive for self-reliance and food security in every sense, both in rice and all other food types. Our investment in WACOT Rice is a prime example, where we are investing $1.5 million and the company is co-investing $8.6 million into a project in Kebbi State that will benefit over 5,000 farmers by providing access to finance, extension services and high-quality inputs of seeds and fertiliser that will enhance yields and product quality and produce an additional 20,000 tonnes of rice per annum.

Culled from How We Made It In Africa

Nseobong David (Staff Reporter)
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Lifestyle

Eddie Murphy and Paige Butcher Are Married! Inside Their Private Caribbean Wedding

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Eddie Murphy and Paige Butcher are officially married. The Oscar nominee, 63, and the Australian model, 44, tied the knot after first getting engaged in September 2018, PEOPLE can exclusively confirm. The two also share an 8-year-old daughter, Izzy Oona, and a 5-year-old son, Max Charles.

Murphy and Butcher got married on Tuesday, July 9 in Anguilla during a small private ceremony in front of family and close friends. Butcher wore a corseted gown adorned with lace designed by Mira Zwillinger, while the groom wore a white Brioni suit.

This marks the second marriage for Murphy and the first for Butcher.

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The news of their nuptials comes less than a month after Murphy and Butcher stepped out together during the Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F premiere in Los Angeles on June 20. At the Netflix event, the two were joined on the red carpet by his daughters, Bria, 34, Shayne Audra, 29, and Bella Zahra, 22 — whom he shares with ex-wife Nicole, 56.

Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop costar, Judge Reinhold, recently told PEOPLE, “He’s crazy about his kids and his family. He’s a family guy at heart. Truly is. He really is.”

In 2012, Murphy and Butcher began dating. The pair welcomed their first child together, Izzy, on May 3, 2016. The couple then welcomed their second child, Max, on Nov. 30, 2018, two months after getting engaged.

While Butcher doesn’t often do interviews, she spoke about her then-fiancé on the red carpet at the 2020 Golden Globes.

When asked what he whispered to her on the red carpet, Murphy told Extra, “I told her how wonderful she looks.” Butcher then chimed in, saying, “He actually says that kind of stuff all the time. He’s very, very sweet and romantic.”

Nseobong David (Staff Reporter)
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Lifestyle

Yale honors a young Black scientist after a neighbor falsely reported the 9-year-old to the police

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The girls returned to the prestigious campus for a special event commemorating Bobbi and her commitment to both science and her community.

The spotted lanternfly, a beautifully colored but highly invasive species, has garnered significant attention due to its rapid spread. People have been encouraged to eliminate them to protect apple and maple trees. In Caldwell, New Jersey, 9-year-old Bobbi Wilson took action against these pests with a homemade, non-toxic spray. Unfortunately, a neighbor reported her as “suspicious,” highlighting the issue of racial profiling, reported My Modern Met.

Bobbi faced a distressing incident of racial profiling, a reality many people of color endure. Despite this, Yale University recognized Bobbi’s value as a young Black scientist. After the incident in October 2022, Bobbi’s 13-year-old sister Hayden courageously addressed the town council, protesting the injustice her sister and other children of color faced in their community.

Her passionate statements caught the attention of news organizations like CNN. Ijeoma Opara, an assistant professor at Yale School of Public Health, invited Bobbi and her family to visit Yale. They returned to the campus on January 20, 2023, for an event celebrating Bobbi’s dedication to science and her community. Bobbi donated her collection of mounted spotted lanternflies to Yale’s Peabody Museum, ensuring her name will always be part of their catalog.

 

Professor Opara, who organized the event, said, “Yale doesn’t normally do anything like this … this is something unique to Bobbi. We wanted to show her bravery and how inspiring she is, and we just want to make sure she continues to feel honored and loved by the Yale community.” Lawrence Gall, the Peabody Museum’s Entomology Collections Manager and Nicole Palffy-Muhoray, the museum’s Assistant Director of Student Programs, then encouraged Bobbi to identify one of her 27 specimens. They said, “We’re so grateful for all of the work you’ve done down in New Jersey and your interest in conservation and checking out the lanternflies advance. We don’t have many of them in Connecticut right now. They are just starting to come up here. But I’m sure we’ll see them, so we’re very happy to have these specimens.”

Monique Joseph, Bobbi’s mother, spoke at the award ceremony, expressing her fear and concern for all children subjected to racial stereotypes. Hayden was praised for her courageous speech. She said, “Dr. Opara, you have been a blessing. You are part of our testimonial and what it means to have a community of amazing, beautiful, Black, intelligent scientists and doctors and more important than that is your heart and your passion for the work that you do…You helped us change the trajectory of that day.”

She said, “This happened because of what happened to Bobbi, but it also happened because the whole community, the science community, got together and said ‘She’s one of us and we’re not going to let her lose her steam for STEM. We’re going to support the family, we’re going to support this girl, we’re going to make sure her big sister Hayden doesn’t lose that light.'”

Nseobong David (Staff Reporter)
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Education

Nigerian Appointed First Female Chancellor of the University of Birmingham

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Nigerian, Sandie Okoro OBE has been appointed by the University of  Birmingham as its new Chancellor. With her appointment, she becomes the first female to be appointed chancellor by the university since its establishment over 100 years ago.

Okoro, a lawyer and diversity expert is currently the Group General Counsel of Standard Chartered where she leads the Bank’s Legal, Group Corporate Secretariat, and Shared Investigative Services functions.

Okoro will succeed Lord Bilimoria of Chelse CBE who will step down after 10 years in the role on July 10.

Speaking on her appointment, she said:

I am truly honoured and delighted to be appointed Chancellor. It’s a fantastic opportunity for me to give a little something back to the amazing University that has given so very much to me and my family.

“The wonderful University of  Birmingham is the alma mater to three generations of the Okoros, my mum, me and my son. So my connection to it is very special indeed. I have followed the University’s outstanding progress very closely since my days there as a student on a full grant back in the 1980s – its dedication to impactful research, its focus on creating an inclusive environment for talented, minority students and educational excellence are themes very close to my heart.

Okoro, an alumna of the University of Birmingham is a graduate of Law and Politics qualifying as a barrister at the City, University of London. She has held roles as Head of Legal for Corporate Services at Schroders, Global General Counsel at Barings, and General Counsel for HSBC Global Asset Management. Okoro was also Senior Vice-President and General Counsel, and Vice-President for Compliance, for the World Bank Group.

She is a 2024 officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and an Honorary Bencher of the Middle Temple.

Nseobong David (Staff Reporter)
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