In keeping with the desire of many African countries to expand commercial relations with the United States, a delegation of business owners from Senegal is in Chicago this week to participate in a forum aimed at educating Illinois companies and state officials about business and investment opportunities in Senegal.
Organized by Donna Sims Wilson, president of Chicago investment bankers MR Beal & Co., and Magatte Diop, president of Peacock Investments, a financial services firm based in Dakar, Senegal, the forum takes place from July 19 to 20 at Chicago’s Elysian Hotel. It is hosted by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade himself, who will be in Chicago at the same time at the invitation of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. While in the Windy City, President Wade will receive an honorary doctorate from Columbia College.
Sims Wilson spoke by telephone to The Network Journal about the delegation and the business forum. “The purpose of the trip is for Illinois-based companies to do quality business with the government of Senegal and the Senegalese private sector,” she said. “We are definitely hoping that at the end of this forum some MOUs will be signed between Illinois companies and the private sector of Senegal.”
The Senegalese delegation comprises representatives of the energy, mining, tourism, agribusiness, pharmaceutical, banking and finance, telecommunications, insurance, transportation and real estate sectors, all of which the Senegalese government has identified as development priorities. With proven strength in many of these sectors, Illinois companies would be ideal business and development partners for Senegal, Sims Wilson said.
“There are many areas of synergy between the government of Senegal’s priorities and the strength of the state of Illinois’ economy,” she said.
Infrastructure is a prime example, she said. “The Millennium Challenge Corporation awarded $540 million to Senegal last year. Of that amount, approximately $370 million is targeted for road building and infrastructure, two sectors of the economy in which Illinois happens to excel,” she said.
Created by the U.S. Congress in 2004, the Millennium Challenge Corporation is an independent foreign aid agency focused on fighting global poverty.
“In addition,” Sims Wilson said, “President Wade has an interest in growing corn in Senegal and Illinois is one of the largest producers of corn in the United States.”
According to the program provided to The Network Journal, the Senegalese and Illinois forum attendees are meeting today from 9:00 a.m. to noon for business-to-business and private sector/public sector talks, followed by a business-to-business only meeting from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and a meeting of private sector professionals and business owners from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. On July 20, B2B meetings will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.