International Company ABB Invests in Michigan

Kwame Som-Pimpong:

Every time I see announcements of foreign companies locating operations in the US, I dream about more African companies doing the same. Companies like United Bank for Africa have US operations, but I am talking about big announcements at the scale of Porsche’s $100 million investment in its North American headquarters near Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, Georgia.

Granted, there is a ton of expansion opportunity on the African continent. The Dangote Group seems to invest $1 billion in a new factory in a different African country every year. Yet, as African governments, companies, and people gain control over the continent’s story, there is something strategic about seeing an African management team shaking hands with the governor and mayor of an American state and city at the announcement of a major deal.

Back in 2010, BCG put together “The African Challengers: (https://www.bcg.com/documents/file44610.pdf), an assessment of African companies poised to make their mark on a global scale outside of the African continent. SABMiller and AngloAmerican, two companies listed in the report, have long been global players in the brewing and mining industries. Perhaps, we could see the likes of an Orascom Construction or MTN Group make moves in the US one day. I’ll keep dreaming.

Originally posted on Tradeology, the ITA Blog:

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Post by Bruce H. Andrews

Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews and ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer at the Michigan ribbon cutting Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews and ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer at the Michigan ribbon cutting

I was thrilled to be in Southeastern Michigan earlier this week to participate in the grand opening of ABB’s first North American manufacturing facility in Auburn Hills.

As global leader in power and automation technologies, ABB’s investment in Michigan demonstrates their commitment to the U.S. market and is a strong signal that America has the most attractive investment climate in the world.

At the event, I was joined by ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer, U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein Suzi LeVine, Swiss Ambassador to the U.S. Martin Dahinden, and SelectUSA Executive Director Vinai Thummalapally.

Our SelectUSA initiative is one way the Department of Commerce is helping international businesses like ABB enter the U.S. market. SelectUSA ensures investors can access the…

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Anthony Scaramucci and Henry Blodget on Failure

For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of adversity. Psalm 24:16

I discovered a new podcast earlier this week, Masters in Business, with Barry Ritholtz. Two of his recent interviews were with Anthony Scaramucci, head of Skybridge Capital, a hedge fund and host of the SALT Conference, probably the biggest conference for the hedge fund industry. I have found him to be fascinating for the past several years just because he seems to be everywhere – raising money for presidential candidates, running his firm, putting together this massive conference, hosting television shows. So, here was a great opportunity to learn more about the man. He talks a lot about failure in his interview with Ritholtz, beginning with getting fired from Goldman Sachs about 18 months after joining the firm.

Henry Blodget is co-founder and CEO of Businessinsider.com is wired into my finger tips. It is literally the first thing I type when I open my browser. Their coverage of business, technology, finance, and other news is fast and accessible, though I have been critical of their Africa coverage. Henry Blodget was formerly a star technology analyst on Wall Street. His claim to fame was making a predicting that Amazon’s one-year price target was $400. Amazon surpassed that not long after his call. During the tech bust, Blodget got caught up in an SEC investigation for civil securities fraud, coughing up a total of $4 million and accepting a lifetime ban from Wall Street. His conversation with Ritholtz covers his recovery from that failure.

Both Blodget and Scaramucci failed at various points in their careers. Both got up. Helpful stories to hear.

President Obama is Going to Kenya: Dumb or Nah?

Witney Schneidman, Fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote this rebuttal of Harvard professor Robert Rotberg’s Politico piece which panned President Obama’s upcoming trip to the country for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit as a bad idea.

Quick thoughts:

  • I’m not sure President Obama tacking on a trip to Ethiopia would go over well with Africa watchers, given the flap over Gayle Smith’s nomination for US AID administrator. Africa watchers…that’s a pretty bad tag line. Who coined it?
  • The parallel between this trip and President Kennedy’s trip to Ireland is a nice one. The country was experiencing violence of its own at the time and was still dealing with Britain not respecting its independence.
  • Professor Rotberg’s analysis of President Obama’s impact on ethnic tensions reinforces President Obama’s remarks last week during Start the Spark, an entrepreneurship initiative the Administration is launching: “And entrepreneurship breaks down barriers between cultures and between faiths at a time when we need more than ever the capacity to understand and work across borders.” Since President Obama is going to Kenya for the Global Entrepreneurship Summitt, this is an opportunity to highlight the breaking down of ethnic tensions.

I’m excited about President Obama going to Kenya. He can’t visit Africa enough in my book. His trip focusing on entrepreneurship at a global scale is really cool and it will be interesting to see African entrepreneurial stories within a global context rather than in something of a vacuum. 

George Magnus Goes Deep and Wide on China’s Ambition

Former UBS Chief Economist wrote this fantastic analysis of China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road plan – essentially a remix of the Silk Road we heard about in Disney movies…

Magnus questions the likelihood of China realizing this plan due in large part to the difficulty of having the renminbi accepted globally as a reserve currency. Former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor made waves when the CBN began including the renminbi in its mix of foreign reserves, which include th euro, dollar, and British pound.

I would be interested to see a list of countries that have begun incorporating the renminbi in their reserve mix. As far as I can tell, Australia and Chile are the other two countries publicly incorporating the currency in their holdings.

What made this piece so helpful was the history Magnus drew from in putting it together. He goes back to before Christ’s birth to establish the economic context in which China’s Silk Road operated, and connects that analysis to China’s present-day ambitions.

I suppose we will see if China is able to realize this vision. In the meantime, I’ll continue beefing up my African economic history chops.

African Fashion’s $31 Billion Opportunity

What image comes to mind when you think African fashion? A dashiki worn by a person with an afro? A wax printed dress? A band of kente cloth thrown across a college graduates shoulders?

I, for one, have a pretty limited knowledge of the diversity of Africa’s fashion aesthetics, and it has been exciting to expand my knowledge over the years as I have traveled across the continent and kept track of industry insiders.

As I have come across more and more amazing designers and Africa-focused fashion shows, my eyes have opened to how enormous the opportunity is for African fashion on a global scale. The influence of African design has influenced fashion for centuries in the West, but we’re now in a time when the narrative is not dictated by the West.

Business of Fashion put together some nice pieces on Africa’s $31 billion fashion opportunity: link.

Pay Attention to the Air Through Which You Walk

Chinedu Echeruo gave a talk at Stanford University’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series on the value that creativity unleashes into the world. In it, he shared a parable David Foster told in a speech to Kenyon College’s 2005 graduating class.

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”

I found this to be a really compelling commentary on the power of how one thinks. We see that power all around us. Political parties. Marriage. Entrepreneurship.

While thinking on this parable further, I remembered an interview angel investor Jason Calacanis did with Peter Thiel, the contrarian billionaire co-founder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook. He made a point about how one should pay attention to things that don’t work as well as one would like. What comes to mind now is the difficulty I have getting my daughter in and out of her car seat. His argument was that opportunities for a solution lie in those instances of discomfort.

For the past few months, I have tried to document ideas that come to mind during the course of a day. After hearing Mr. Thiel’s argument, I have tried to look a little closer at the everyday things with which I engage on a normal basis. My daughter’s car seat. The rectangular shape of my laptop and iPhone. To apply the language of Mr. Foster’s parable, I am trying to shift my thinking to be aware of the water in which I am swimming, rather the air through which I am walking.

For example, I remember that I heard Mr. Thiel make this comment about paying attention to the discomforts around you while I was sitting at a red light at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and K Street. I can remember this now, but with all the head shots I delivered playing football, I probably won’t remember this experience 50 years from now.

What if I could take a snapshot of that moment in time – the image of the intersection, the two-minute portion of the conversation, the day and time, how the conversation made me feel? Imagine being able to recall that experience 50 years from now as a form of treatment for my dementia.

You’ve seen the joy on the man’s face as he listens to jazz music he’d enjoyed decades prior. Imagine creating a playlist of sorts for your older self to enjoy pivotal moments of your life.

This may or may not be a good idea (I kind of like it and will mention it to my mom who works on dementia issues). That aside, the thought exercise of paying attention to something as routine as a memory unlocks a creativity that I look forward to experiencing more.

Watch Halt and Catch Fire

The New Yorker profile on Marc Andreessen I wrote about earlier today mentioned an AMC show, Halt and Catch Fire. I had never heard of it, but just…You should watch the show. Messed up people (who isn’t?) build a PC from the ground up in the days when PCs weighed more than your one year old son who was 10lbs at birth. Here’s the link again. Watch it.