Utah Establishes African Chamber of Commerce

Utah Establishes African Chamber of Commerce

Utah is home to a population of entrepreneurs so committed to strengthening U.S.-Africa business ties, some have banded together to form the African Chamber of Commerce of Utah.

Founders of the nonprofit African chamber, which launched Sept. 6, hope it will become a go-to center for Utah companies looking to do business with emerging economies on the continent.

Utah has other “ethnic” chambers, such as the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce of Utah, chambers for Latin America, Europe, Asia and a representative for National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce, according to Elizabeth Goryunova, executive vice president of the World Trade Center Utah.

“The one missing was the one relating to Africa,” Goryunova told AfkInsider.

Utah is home to African populations that moved there as refugees, or who came to the U.S. for education and stayed to start businesses, Goryunova said. The state was ranked No. 1 for business and careers five years in a row by Forbes, most recently in December.

“Our business environment encourages entrepreneurship,” Goryunova said. “The fact they incorporated here speaks for the entrepreneurial spirit of the state.”

Utah is among the leading states in international trade and export, with Nigeria as one of its top three destinations for exports, according to a prepared statement.

Forming the core of the Utah African chamber are a few local Utah entrepreneurs who have been successful in Africa and needed a forum for their dreams of strengthening U.S.-African business partnerships. These include Thomas Appiah and Sabina Zunguze.

A native of Ghana, Appiah has been in the U.S. since 1990. He came for an education, got married here, “and here we are,” he told AfkInsider. A former senior product marketing manager at Motorola, Appiah is CEO of Appiah Consulting Team and chairman of the board of directors at African Chamber of Commerce of Utah. He helps connect businesses to businesses and businesses to government.

A lot of U.S. companies are bringing products into Africa that Africa doesn’t make, Appiah said. The continent’s growing middle class has created demand for these products. Each import into Africa will generate work for Africans, he said.

Most of the entrepreneurs who started the Utah’s African chamber began their Africa involvement in nonprofits and developed a great love for the people before turning to business as a way to be involved, Appiah said.

“One thing about Africa, when you stand on street corner you can always come up with a business opportunity,” he said. “I believe these people went with a view to philanthropy.”

Most of Africa’s resources are exported as raw material to the developed world, where value is added, then the value-added products are imported back into Africa, Appiah said. His wish is to help Africans partner with U.S. citizens to add value in Africa.

Sabina Zunguze, formerly of Zimbabwe, is president of the African Chamber of Commerce of Utah. She owns Beautiful Options USA, doing business as A Gift To Africa. The company promotes and markets fine art and crafts handmade by poor and rural women of Africa, according to the National Association Of Women Business Owners.

Zunguze’s African upbringing inspired her to help address the plight of poor African women and promote fair trade with artisans in African countries, she said on her LinkedIn page. She’s traveled to South Africa at the invitation of its government as an international business consultant, meeting with rural women’s groups and advising them on how to promote their crafts in the U.S.A.

A Gift To Africa promotes and markets handmade jewelry, home and office products made by poor and rural women of Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Morocco, Uganda, Ghana, Swaziland, Madagascar and Zimbabwe.

She’s also CEO and founder of Muchero LLC, partnering with rural farmers and artisans in Zimbabwe and Malawi to sustainably commercialize indigenous natural resources. This provides income for rural producers while encouraging conservation of their resources, she said on her LinkedIn page. Muchero imports partially processed powders, oils and herbs and repackages and produces products in the U.S. for resale to the health food industry.

Zunguze has yet another company, Basa Body, that manufactures coconut-based natural skin care products made with organic ingredients including raw coconut from farms operated by Kenyan women.

Basa Body, named after the women of Mombasa where the coconut oil is produced, is a social for-profit company created to help the women grow their businesses, tell their stories and create economic opportunities and wealth for Kenyan women so they can pull themselves out of poverty.

Basa Body products are manufactured in Draper, Utah.

Goryunova predicts the African Chamber of Commerce of Utah will start small and grow.

“It’s not just about people who came from Africa,” she said. “It’s about all entrepreneurs who want to enter the African market, or about educational institutions that want to take their programs into Africa.”

The African chamber will provide businesses with added channels to learn how to access African markets, Goryunova said.