Minority business owners complain that when African leaders visit Washington they bypass the Diaspora and African American companies, opting instead to meet with big corporations.
Meeks and his staff have marked their calendars for August when African leaders arrive Washington. They plan to get the CBC, African Diaspora Business Community and minority owners together and apply leverage.
“If they want our support, show willingness to do business with smaller firms, not just big corporations,” Meek says. “Have them report the number of minority firms they deal with. They need us for the appropriations and authorization.”
The CBC intends to sit with African leaders and inform them building relationships is a two-way street. That black businesses here can be part of Africa’s booming development.
But Meeks concedes they should make the effort. “They don’t show up. I can’t tell you how often I’m in meetings and asking where’s the diversity? All this money and potential and I’m the only person of color in there.”
He says, “They should partner with companies that can handle million dollar deals. After they make some money, then invest on their own. Also establish partnerships with businesses on the ground and local companies.”
He says there are no guarantees. “You could get burned. All we can do is ensure that there are opportunities for minority business owners willing to take the risk.”
Experts say it’s time to for smaller companies to start asking the right questions. To find out who to talk to and how to get involved.
One expert says, “They should think in terms of economies of scale. It’s hard for African corporations to find small companies. You’ve gotta be known, you’ve gotta get out there.”
The US Department of Commerce says, “You’ve got to come in numbers. You can’t compete with the GE’s. Create trade unions or organize minority Trade-in-Africa webinars to get up-to-speed. Connect businesses with missions traveling there. It won’t happen on emails.”
Says Meeks, “Folks don’t know the proper channels. We should get the information out and advocate for them. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, so we’ve got to keep squeaking.”