July 26, 2023 -- A high-profile delegation from the City of Houston, led by Mayor Sylvester Turner, recently completed a week-long trade and investment mission visiting Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.
The Houston delegation included Vice Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Castex Tatum, City Councilmembers Tiffany D. Thomas and Karla Cisneros and key representatives from the Texas Medical Center (TMC), Houston Airport System, Port Houston, Halliburton, Chevron, Houston Sports Authority, Minority Business Council, Ghana-Houston Chamber of Commerce and businesses from various sectors and industries.
The mission of the trip was to foster government and business relationships between the City of Houston and the three West African countries, build on existing relationships, explore new bi-lateral economic opportunities, and strengthen cultural and civic engagement.
Mayor Turner called the trip significant, demonstrating mutual respect and promise for building relationships into the future, "Houston is the most diverse city in the nation, with 1 in 4 Houstonians being foreign-born. It’s always an important part of trade missions to demonstrate to our Houston residents that our city cares about them and their country of origin and wants to be supportive of the diaspora in all three countries. We’ve had the African Energy Summit and most recently our 6th Annual Africa Day, where we’ve invited different leaders from both the commercial and the government sectors to come to Houston, so it was critical for us to go there. We are here to create relationships, facilitate trade, and create a win-win environment for both Houston and Africa.”
The trade between Houston and the visited countries has already shown impressive growth, with a total trade volume of $1.6 billion with Nigeria, $196.8 million with Cote d’Ivoire, and $293.1 million with Ghana respectively in 2022.
The trade mission aimed to further strengthen these trade relationships and explore new opportunities for Houston-based companies to invest in Africa while also inviting international companies to do business in Houston.
Several key meetings between the delegation and leaders took place during each country visit. In Abuja, the delegation met with the Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Aviation, as well as representatives from the US Embassy.
The Mayor discussed the importance of restarting direct air routes between Houston and Nigeria, and in establishing a career Consulate General of Nigeria in Houston to help support Houston’s large Nigerian community and the growing trade relationship.
"One of the main goals of Houston Airports is to plan to expand Houston's global air service connections, and regain air service to Africa and explore additional expansion opportunities in the region," said Željka Momirović, Director of Air Service Development for the Houston Airport System.
"Houston Airports is hoping to regain air service to two cities in Africa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Lagos, Nigeria. Both cities are major airport hubs and gateways to the rest of the African continent. The success of new flights, especially international flights, depends on support from all categories of travelers – business, leisure, family visits and education and this mission is an important step to raise awareness of our efforts to gain these flights and reconnect Houston to the continent of Africa."
In Cote d’Ivoire, the delegation, the first from the United States to come to Cote d’Ivoire, met with the Vice President, Prime Minister, Ambassador of the United States, and officials from the Ministry of Technical and Vocational Training and the Ministry of Oil, Energy, and Mines, among others. They discussed ways Houston can support workforce development and innovation in the country, as well as exchanges in the medical and energy sectors.
Accra hosted meetings with the Minister of Energy, Minister of Trade and Industry, the Mayor of Accra, and Ghana's Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture where the Honorable Dr. Ibrahim Mohammed Awal appointed Mayor Turner as an Ambassador for Tourism to Ghana. The City of Houston also committed to partnering with the African Diaspora Forum to lead and advocate for stronger cultural and civic connections.
The delegation's diverse makeup allowed political and business leaders in each country the opportunity to create relationships, explore opportunities and hear best practices from leading experts in the healthcare, aviation, sports, oil and gas, energy, and real estate industries and the nation’s largest port for foreign trade, Port Houston.
Port Houston, the largest port in the United States, showcased best practices and discussed potential collaborations with counterparts in Africa. “I was proud to represent Port Houston on this trade mission,” says Anders Flenborg, Port Houston representative for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “As Western Africa trade continues to develop, Port Houston’s location and efficiency make us well-positioned to handle the future cargo growth.”
The Texas Medical Center (TMC) was also a part of the delegation with plans to share best practices with Cote d’Ivoire on the creation of a 600-bed hospital, which will become the largest hospital in the country.
“TMC joined this delegation to better understand West Africa’s healthcare system and the challenges they face to enhance our global partnership,” said Ashley McPhail, Chief External Affairs Officer. “It was great to meet with digital healthcare entrepreneurs and medical supply chain companies to understand opportunities for collaboration with TMC in years to come."
Following the delegation’s return, members will continue to foster the relationships that have been initiated and follow up on the discussions, responsibilities and action items with an after-action report in the next few weeks.
“Missions like these demonstrate the inclusivity of the City of Houston and showcase the economic opportunities available for companies, both large and small, to engage in bilateral trade, mutually beneficial relationships and tourism with Africa,” says Mayor Sylvester Turner. “To do business, you must first establish a relationship, and we hope that the relationships created from our trade mission to West Africa will expand the economic, trade and cultural ties and create opportunities for mutual prosperity for the City of Houston and Africa for decades to come.”