Africa Trade Office Opens in Maryland: One of the Early Spin-Offs of the Election of Barack Obama Has Been the Opening of an Africa Trade Office in Maryland to Promote US-Africa Trade

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Jack B. Johnson, the Prince George's County executive, and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, a member of the US Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, officially opened the Africa Trade Office (ATO) at a ribbon cutting-ceremony in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Funded by a $400,000 federal grant, the new office is designed to expand trade between Africa and smalland medium-sized companies (SMEs) in Maryland, particularly in Prince George's County (PGC) and surrounding jurisdictions. The ATO will offer a number of services, including specialised training programmes, workshops, seminars, one-on-one counselling, the evaluation of business needs, and business assistance support for access to capital.

"The establishment of this office will advance bilateral trade and commerce between Africa and county businesses, while adding more jobs and investment opportunities to our county," said Johnson, a long-time advocate of increasing trade between Africa and the United States.

Initially, the trade office will focus on nine countries including Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. Mote African countries will be added in 2009.

"Its proximity to the federal government makes it well positioned as a hub for international commerce," said Senator Cardin. "It is vital during these tough economic times that we do everything possible to expand markets for American goods and services."

According to the Foreign Trade Statistics Division of the US Census Bureau, between January and October 2008, the US imported $8. …