Entrepreneur advises Ivorian business owners on reaching U.S. markets

Mr. Alain Silue, of Agrismart was one of the participants who outlined the main challenges they face when exporting to the U.S. market including quality and quantity standards, language barrier, high packaging costs, and lack of access to buyers’ contacts. Photo credit: Ms. Jessie Lafourcade, Trade Hub.

A market linkage session organized by the U.S. Embassy in Côte d’Ivoire—with support from the Trade Hub and Côte d’Ivoire’s Export Promotion Agency (APEX-CI)—guided companies through opportunities that exist and the standards required to export to the U.S., including under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Under the U.S. Embassy’s Target of Opportunity program, the August 16 event took place at the Andrew Young Center in Abidjan. The Trade Hub and APEX-CI—which hosts the AGOA Trade Resource Center (ATRC)—selected 40 agro and textile business owners to meet with Ivoirian-American Mr. Brahima Kone, co-founder of Faso Foods, an import-export distribution company based in Maryland in the U.S.  He explained that he and another young African founded the company to provide original African products to the diaspora.

“We realized that we were missing the taste of home,” Mr. Kone told the business owners. “When we launched the company, most of the demand came from, particularly, the African students.”

Faso Foods sources, imports and distributes products from Africa, India, Europe and other parts of the world, including grains, nuts and cocoa as well as packaged goods, such as chocolate spreads, juices, sauces and snacks. Many are organic and fair trade certified.

During discussions, participants outlined the main challenges they face when exporting to the U.S. market. Most of them shared how difficult it is for them to attain quality and quantity standards. Other barriers included language, high packaging costs, and lack of access to buyers’ contacts.

Mr. Kone emphasized the importance of quality and reliability.  “We faced the situation where companies fulfilled the first order, and lost track afterwards,” Mr. Kone said. “The demand is there, but you must develop sustainable businesses.”

After his talk, participants presented their businesses and discussed partnership opportunities with Mr. Kone.

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