Presidential Program for the Development of the Afro-Colombian Population – that is the name of the program to empower Afro Colombians through entrepreneurship and job creation. The government of Colombia has the answer and we, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, is more than willing to participate in this noble process. As I said in my previous column, government representatives had been courting the NBCC for years. It was like we thought it too good to be true. Here in our own nation government has not been much of a friend and sometimes it can be a foe. We are so glad we finally made that big step.
We are starting to write a thorough plan. It will provide opportunity in most industries and promote trade between the two nations. It must be a 50/50 proposition in order to make everyone happy and benefit both nations. The people of Colombia recognize the importance of a Free Trade Agreement which is why they patiently waited almost four years for the US to finally sit down and sign it. Tariffs and duties are now a thing of the past and business is starting to boom. We, children of Africa, must get involved with that in a big way. It will be a job creator and a poverty buster. The quality of life for Blacks in both nations will collectively improve. Wealth building can at last be a reality.
Right now, we are assembling various teams of Afro American firms to join Colombian counterparts with the ambition of major projects sponsored by the Colombian government and major corporations. For instance, they will be building 50,000 homes and we have been asked to bring those with major capacity to participate. Construction Program Management consists of a few Black owned firms and we must convince them that there is great opportunity in Colombia. Each one must commit to opening an office in Colombia. That office will hire and train locally and become a subsidiary of its American firm. We can emulate such a relationship for engineering, IT and architectural firms. In terms of infrastructure, the nation has budgeted over $14 billion over the next three years. There are utility plants to build and their oil industry is starting to mushroom. One of our Trade Mission participants is currently trying to buy an existing oil company there. This could be big!
They love our mission. While we were in Bogota, a small contingent from a neighboring province entered into our meeting room. Their spokesperson announced that they were sent by their Governor to formally ask us to become their partner. "We are just an hour and a half away from Bogota. Please include us in your plans. We have agriculture, fishing, emerald mining and many infrastructure projects. So, please be our partner." I shouted "That’s a deal!" and everyone rejoiced. I predict that we will have many investing so much in Colombia that it will, in fact, become their new home. Their welcome is just that real.
We have given our affiliate, Camara de Comercio Afro Americana de Colombia, a seat with our Board of Directors. This chapter will form a committee for the purpose of starting a national chapter of the NBCC in each of the other nations in South America. This will take us to a new level. With Suriname we now have two chapters in South America and now we begin the mission of establishing a presence in the other ten sovereign nations. Cali, Colombia will be the continent’s Capital. We have Washington, DC for the US/World and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the Pan African Chamber of Commerce. At our Annual Conference this July, we will have participants from both of these continental capitals.
In regards to our trading future in Colombia, established and very successful entrepreneurs should contact me with their statement of capabilities and my staff will evaluate them. If it all spells success we will begin the task of matching them with their counterparts in Colombia. Their joint venture activity will first begin in Colombia and then spread to the United States and then throughout the African Diaspora via our applicable affiliates.
It seems that this is happening so fast. Actually, we have been at this for 22 years and we have finally found the final piece to the "puzzle". What is next, China? Please don’t laugh as I now have a communication on my desk asking when are we going to establish a chapter in that nation. For instance, the Chinese city of Guangzhou has a Black population of 300,000 and it is increasing its Black population by 30% per year. That’s good and one day the time may come. But right now, we have Colombia on our minds.
Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.