By now, you’ve heard of the BEMs, Big emerging markets. While some of these countries, which include Turkey, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Poland, are now in turmoil, they are generally predicted to offer opportunities for exporting firms because the U.S. Department of Commerce expects them to account for 27%
of the world’s total imports by 2010. What makes them favorable prospects? They have large populations, expect significant growth in their gross domestic products (GDP) and expect to undertake major economic restructurings. But, even if they do perform as anticipated-and many are already reporting lackluster results-that doesn’t mean these countries are the
ideal spots for all entrepreneurs, particularly African Americans.
Ideally, entrepreneurs should decide whether a market is right for them after they’ve assessed the demand for their product. That said, there are still some general things you need to consider when you evaluate a foreign market. Herb Austin, trade finance specialist of the Small Business Administration in Washington, D.C., suggests you initially explore a few questions: How comfortable am I with the country’s location? Do the country’s citizens have the ability to pay for the products I am selling? Is there a demand for my product? Austin advises that you look for countries with which you have things in common. Language can be a major issue, even if you have access to a good translator. In addition, selecting countries with some cultural similarities can flatten your export learning curve. Austin also warns that you shouldn’t “take on a project that’s too big for you to handle by having too many unfamiliar variables.”
We ran our picks-which emphasized the vast opportunities that lie outside the BEMs-by Awilda Marquez, assistant secretary of commerce and director general of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service. Although the Commerce Department doesn’t want entrepreneurs to limit their choices to the markets mentioned here, she supported our alternatives. “[Our office] highlighted the BEMs because they showed tremendous potential, but they also have their share of challenges,” she contends. “There are so many other markets to tap, and we see a hierarchy of export opportunities for new export companies.”
Contrary to the criteria for BEM prospects, our markets clearly demonstrate characteristics that are similar to those in African American culture; have English as the primary language; and are considered friendly toward American imports. Plus, they are also in relatively close proximity. Small businesses, in particular, should find interesting opportunities in these areas. And while there are products needed almost everywhere-telecommunications equipment, tourism-related products and services, and technology systems-we’ve tried to include places where there could be unique opportunities for African American businesses even if the markets were well developed. Trinidad and Tobago, Ghana, the United Kingdom and Canada were not initially identified as “the places to be” by U.S. experts. Nevertheless, we’re suggesting that if you are an African American entrepreneur, they may contain a wealth of opportunities for you.
Trinidad and Tobago
Gain much more than tourism dollars from these two island treasures