Spotlight on Democratic Republic of Congo Florida expo offers new opportunities for investment, trade

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Florida International Trade and Cultural Expo (FITCE) 2019 (Photo: Courtesy of Renaissance Evolution, Inc.)

Sixty nations will be represented at the 6th Annual Florida International Trade and Cultural Expo (FITCE) 2021 scheduled for November 16-17 at Fort Lauderdale.

FITCE is celebrating its sixth year of bringing people and businesses together from around the world. Seven former presidents, ambassadors, and consuls from participating nations are expected to be present and thoroughly active participants in the two-day event.

Paola Isaac Baraya, Director of Program Events, is also Broward County Government’s Economic Development Specialist for International Trade.

“This is a conference for anybody who wants to do business with or learn about other countries,” she said. “The main message is that if anyone wants to sell their products to FITCE countries, this is the place to be this year.”

Beyond the anticipation of having seven former presidents, Baraya also anticipates a large delegation from Dubai.

“We have commitments from buyers and sellers from sixty different countries,” former Broward County Mayor Dale V. C.

Holness said. “It’s the best way to meet and speak with world influencers as you build new relationships to make your business more profitable.”
Holness, a native of Jamaica, founded FITCE in 2014 in partnership with the Broward Office of Small Business and Economic.

“We’re expecting several delegations from Africa, especially Ghana and Nigeria. They’ve been present in the past. We’re anticipating a special delegation from the Democratic Republic of the Congo also,” he said. “What they’ll be able to get is an understanding as to how to export to the United States, to make contact with potential investors, buyers for goods and services from the 60 countries, as well as people here in America who are looking to sell their goods and services.”

CONGO SPOTLIGHT
One nation in particular will hold the full attention of Dewayne Boyd, a former special aide to the late Congressman John Conyers of Michigan. That nation is the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Boyd and his wife, Leontyne, are the chief coordinators for the DRC at FITCE 2021.

DRC President Felix Tshisekedi is also chairman of the African Union. If he attends and delivers the keynote address, as the DRC delegation had hoped early on, he will command a platform like no other African leader has had, Boyd said.

“He will have that forum of 60 countries in attendance to look to trade relationships for the Congo, in particular, and with all of Africa in the larger context,” Boyd said. “And nobody has ever had a forum or platform like this on behalf of Africa. It will be an ideal opportunity to reach out to African American investors.

“FITCE was the vision of Holness. He wanted to establish global trade links for Florida, Latin America, and Africa,” Boyd said. “Because of my wife’s and my own involvement with the largest women’s agricultural cooperative in the DRC – COOPAGEL – I was able to suggest the many possibilities that the DRC might bring to FITCE this year. They have arable lands larger than the country of France available for investment opportunities in agribusiness. And it has been the interest of DRC specifically to appeal to African American farmers and investors to consider coming home to develop the agricultural sector of DRC.”

AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT
As the aide to Conyers, Boyd had the special assignment of establishing trade and exchange relationships between African and African American farmers. With family ties in Mississippi and prior employment with the state’s Agriculture Commission, Boyd said he is constantly looking for ways to secure a place for Black farmers of the American South on the international stage for agricultural trade and investment.

By the year 2050, says Boyd, there will be about 9 billion people on the planet; they will need to be fed. And Africa, especially the abundant farmlands of the DRC, will be capable of meeting a large part of the future demand for food for the world.

Will FITCE open doors for African American for African investments? Boyd says yes. And particularly in the DRC, in all sectors of the economy.

“Africa needs development across the board in every economic sector there is,” he says. “From infrastructure, water systems, energy systems, aviation, agriculture. Everything. Africa has so much work that needs to be done that my grandchildren’s children will still have work to do. Why should we let China and all these other countries avail themselves of all of this abundance, when we as the children of Africa are the rightful heirs of this development?

“That’s one thing that we’re hoping that will come out of FITCE. That engagement, that linkage,” Boyd said. “During my tenure with Congressman Conyers and being specifically tasked with establishing trade relations with Africa on behalf of African American farmers, that task eventually led me to reach out to HBCUs such as Tuskegee, with which we have a sister-city relationship under development, and with Florida A&M, because of their closeness to FITCE. One of our immediate tasks will be to reach out to these and other HBCUs and their various disciplines and bring them into some kind of direct relationship with FITCE and Africa.”

Boyd points out the injustice committed against Black farmers and laborers in general over the last century and is frustrated at the slow pace of progress in removing this obstacle to having a decent life. “Our ancestors made this agricultural, agribusiness into what it is today – a trillion-dollar industry. We’re still fighting basically for nothing. It’s crumbs.

“But look at the potential of what we could have on a global scale with agribusiness projects like Bukanga Lonzo, developed by the DRC. And it has more arable farmland than any other country in Africa. The potential is there to feed two billion people. And that’s with using less than 10 percent of the land available.”

RACE FOR CONGRESS
Holness led the field in the special election for Florida’s Congressional District 20, the seat held by Alcee Hastings until his death on April 6. The results of Tuesday’s Democratic primary showed Holness with a slim 12-vote margin over second-place rival Sheila Cherfilus-McCormic. The Miami Herald reports that Holness had 23.76 percent of the votes, and Cherfilus-McCormick 23.74 percent. A mandatory recount is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 5. The declared winner will go on to face Republican Jason Mariner in the Jan. 11 general election.

Boyd supports the former Broward County mayor, saying he believes Holness, if elected, will have the breadth of vision of a John Conyers relative to African and African American participation in the global economy.

“There has been no leadership beyond that of Mr. Conyers in seeking to bring our farmers into the international markets since his departure,” Boyd said. “Many of our farmers just have had no knowledge of the opportunities available to them. I think Commissioner Holness will fill that awareness vacuum that has developed in Congress since we lost Congressman Conyers.”

FITCE PARTIAL ITINERARY (Nov. 17-18)
Attendance is free. Exhibitors pay $100 a table. To register online, go to: fitcexpo.com.

Some featured meetings and sessions include:
• “11 Steps to Exporting – A Roadmap to Your Exporting Success!” 
• Doing Business with the World – Export and investment opportunities presented by foreign government officials, representing over 60 countries
• Speed Matchmaking with Country Representatives – Meet one-on-one with government officials, ambassadors, consuls general, trade commissioners, and/or leaders of bi-national chambers of commerce
• The World Expo Marketplace – Visit and network with local and international exhibitors
• American & International Buyers Panel: Meet & Greet 

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Spotlight on Democratic Republic of Congo Florida expo offers new opportunities for investment, trade

By Earnest McBride
November 4, 2021