Supply Chain Expert Azukaego Chukwuelue Sheds Light on the Bright Future of US-Africa Trade

Azukaego Chukwuelue
Photo Credited to: Four23 Photography

The East Africa Business Network’s 18th annual conference, in collaboration with the Africa Data Foundation, held in Irving, Texas, saw Supply Chain Expert Azukaego Chukwuelue (she/her) engage with a dynamic community of small and medium-scale business entrepreneurs. This gathering provided Azukaego with invaluable insights into the challenges these entrepreneurs face and the transformative potential that technology-driven transparency holds for contemporary commerce.

In her thought leadership role, Azukaego Chukwuelue explores emerging trends in supply chain management, technology, and international trade. Through her experience at the conference, she underscores the importance of discussing trending topics in the supply chain with relevant data. The conference also spotlighted the potential of bridging the trade balance between the US and Africa, emphasizing the collaborative potential for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

One striking aspect of the US-Africa trade relationship is the vast scope it offers. Africa, with its population of 1.22 billion residents, accounts for one in every six global citizens. Importantly, three out of every five Africans are under the age of 19, promising a youthful and dynamic future for the continent. By 2050, half of humanity will reside in just nine nations, with five of them in sub-Saharan Africa. This demographic surge, driven by rapid urbanization, sets the stage for a world of opportunity for Africa’s burgeoning middle class, igniting robust private-sector expansion and fostering fresh global collaborations.

Historically, exports from Africa to the US have been dominated by oil and mineral resources. However, a noticeable shift towards a more diversified range of products is underway. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has played a pivotal role in diversifying Africa’s exports to the US. We now see remarkable growth in textiles, leather products, and agricultural goods, as well as non-oil trade under AGOA, including clothing, auto parts, and unique agriculture, offering enormous growth prospects for both regions. These contribute to Africa’s economic upliftment and strengthen the US market dominance. On the flipside, exports from the US to Africa still remain a huge opportunity wiith over 30 million SMEs in the US employing 46% of private sector jobs and  contributing 2/3rds of the new private sector jobs in the last decade.  SME’s that export tend to grow even faster, create more jobs and pay higher wages than similar businesses that do not trade  internationally and harnessing export opportunities to Africa is a great area for small businesses to thrive.

In 2022, US exports to Africa were valued at approximately $30.7 billion, according to Sub-Saharan Africa’s exports to the US under AGOA in 2019 exceeded $12 billion. These numbers underscore the inherent mutual advantages of the US-Africa trading relationship, indicating significant room for growth and cooperation.

Notably, nine of the top 20 fastest-growing economies over the past five years are located in Africa. Despite facing challenges such as global pandemics and geopolitical disruptions, Africa recorded a remarkable GDP growth rate of 3.8% in 2022, as reported by the African Development Bank. Growth projections indicate a rise to 4.1% for 2023-24, highlighting the need for SMEs to equip themselves with data-driven strategies to enhance trade opportunities and ensure robust business success.

The United States has been making substantial investments in Africa across key sectors such as sustainable energy, health, agribusiness, digital connectivity, infrastructure, and finance. These investments underscore the need for business leaders to closely examine data in these strategic areas, positioning themselves for success in this evolving trade landscape.

In today’s fast-paced world, innovative solutions that provide SMEs with access to cutting-edge tools without straining their budgets have become the leaders in the industry. Azukaego Chukwuelue draws attention to the concept of “Supply Chain-as-a-Service,” a paradigm that takes inspiration from real-world business interactions to democratize access to premium solutions. The incorporation of Africa-centric data into AI and machine learning solutions is particularly valuable as it enables clear visibility to navigate challenges and explore opportunities that are relevant to the region.

Overall, SMEs must embrace technology not only as a choice but as a necessity for survival and growth. Small Sub-Saharan businesses that export to various continents also face the same problems other SMEs in other parts of the world have. However, with the help of a digital platform designed for SMEs, equipped with real-time analytics, AI-powered predictions, and intuitive dashboards, small businesses can elevate supply chain transparency and empower the organization’s talent pool to make data-driven decisions. This results in tangible benefits such as reduced waste, improved sales projections, and enhanced supplier relationships, especially when the data is tailored to address regional business issues.

Azukaego Chukwuelue’s participation in the East Africa Business Network’s annual conference sheds light on the promising future of US-Africa trade relations. With a growing African population, evolving trade dynamics, and a rising GDP, the stage is set for SMEs to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of global supply chain strategies. Technology and collaboration are at the forefront of this transformation, and businesses that embrace these strategies will lead the way in achieving supply chain brilliance and fostering international collaboration. The US-Africa trade relationship offers a wealth of opportunities for mutual growth, making it a crucial area of focus for business leaders looking to succeed in the evolving global landscape. As we move forward, it’s clear that data-driven strategies and innovative solutions will be the driving force behind the success of SMEs in the US-Africa trade relationship.

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