“Too long in America’s blind spot”

BlackEnterpise.com spoke to Rosa and  senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett on the sidelines of the US Africa Leaders Summit. From its report:

Whitaker maintains the U.S. shouldn’t be comfortable leading from behind. “Africa has been in America’s blind spot for far too long,” she says. “In 2009, China overtook the US as Africa’s largest trading partner and China now has a a $200 billion trade relationship in Africa compared to America’s $85 billion.”

It’s impossible to underestimate the importance of getting the word out to African American entrepreneurs to make sure they don’t get left out on what could be the opportunity of a lifetime. The true challenge is how to spread the word.

“Any initiative like this usually starts with a few people taking a leadership role and others following suit,” Jarrett says. “We are confident that with all of the attention that the summit has received that the momentum will go up exponentially from here on out. We already had $14 billion worth of private deals announced Tuesday and that was in the morning. By the end of the day my guess is there were other businesses stepping up.”

Whitaker says she was disappointed not to see more African-American companies around the rooms. “African-American firms were either not engaged with Africa or were not invited to the summit. It’s likely a combination of both. I hope we can change this paradigm. We cannot afford to ignore the region with the fastest growing consumer class and the fastest growing consumer market. More than one trillion dollars in consumer spending is African.

But with Chinese and Indian companies already heavily established on the continent it could be an uphill battle for American corporations looking to get in the game, especially when many believe the US is coming in during the fourth quarter. And if getting in is a hard sell for big corp what hope is there for the black small business owner?