Hoping to increase trade between Southeast Queens and the African continent, Congressman Gregory Meeks and a number of prominent local businessmen left last Saturday on a trade mission to Ghana.
The trade mission is the first of its kind since the passing of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act last May. That act, which seeks to lower the barriers to international commerce, was the first major trade legislation between the United States and several African nations.
According to Meeks, who represents most of Southeast Queens, the goal of the journey to Ghana is to foster contacts between businessmen from the Sixth Congressional District and their counterparts in Africa.
“This mission will provide my constituents with the opportunity to exchange concrete business ideas with Ghanaians in their specific field of business. The goal is to create opportunities for my constituents to participate and reap the benefits of the implementation of this historic legislation.”
Southeast Queens businessmen who are joining the mission include Jack Cherry of Cherry Office Products, Joe Argrette of JMA Construction, Everett Hopkins of the Hopkins-Bailey law firm and Ken Brennen, head of Phyto-Riker Pharmaceutical, which is based in Manhattan.
The group is planning to meet with key Ghanaian government officials and the Minister of Industry and Trade. They are also scheduled to visit the Ghana Stock Exchange, the Ghana Investment Council and several business leaders. The mission is scheduled to return on Saturday, August 5th.
The mission is being paid for by corporate interests, including a fund that invests in sub-Saharan African companies and governments.
Meeks, who has been recently criticized for accepting campaign contributions from a number of investments banks, is a member of the Banking and International Relations Committee as well as the sub-committee of Africa.
Pyria Dayananda, an aide to Meeks, said that in addition to boosting trade, the mission would have the secondary effect of encouraging democracy.
Ghana, a country on the Atlantic Ocean with a population of 19 million, is well endowed with natural resources such as gold and timber. Although it posts twice the per capita output of the poorer countries in West Africa, Ghana is heavily dependent on international financial and technical assistance.
“Africa is really an untapped resource,” said Dayananda, who accompanied the mission. “Many of the markets haven’t opened up yet because the governments have been on the less stable side. We are hoping to promote democracy through investment and trade.”
The areas of commerce that the mission will focus on include pharmaceuticals, construction, housing, manufacturing and telecommunications.
“We are hoping to come back with several deals signed,” Dayananda added. “We will be shaking as many hands as possible.”