The Atlanta-based American-Nigerian International Chamber of Commerce aims to help American companies capitalize on opportunities and minimize risk when doing business in Nigeria, Herbert Nwosu, the chamber’s founder, told GlobalAtlanta.

With the help of the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Nwosu established the chamber 10 years ago, a few years after the Nigerian government chose Atlanta as the location for its third consulate in the United States.

The international chamber has 25 member companies and individuals nationwide, and it has developed strong ties with the consulate, the only one in America outside of Washington or New York.

“We are almost like the commercial arm of the consulate here. We work very, very closely with the consulate and that’s what gives us a lot of credibility,” Mr. Nwosu said.

The organization also maintains a firm relationship with the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the U.S. Department of Commerce, Henry Sawyerr, president of the chamber and managing director of Nigerian operations for California-based Vector Engineering Inc., told GlobalAtlanta.

Dr. Sawyerr is an environmentalist, and since he became president of the chamber in January, he has taken a Nigerian delegation to a landfill in LaGrange and has worked to position Georgia companies to take advantage of environmental projects in Nigeria

Although it still heavily relies on oil, Nigeria’s economy is slowly diversifying, and the country provides many opportunities for creating alternative fuels like biodiesel. Among other “green” initiatives, Dr. Sawyerr said that the chamber is currently trying to arrange a partnership that would allow a Georgia company to build a biodiesel plant in Nigeria.
“Nigeria has a lot of palm oil,” Dr. Sawyerr said. “We are looking to explore the possibility of being able to work jointly with indigenous companies to establish a biodiesel plant in Nigeria.”

Nigeria is growing in other areas as well. The textile, housing, agriculture, health care and banking sectors are also ripe for American investment, Dr. Sawyerr said.

The chamber, which has hosted many Nigerian delegations in Atlanta, is looking to help a Nigerian bank start up in Atlanta, he added.

Mr. Nwosu came to America after having lived in England, France and Germany. He felt that American was superior to European technology and saw potential for a bi-national partnership that would fill economic voids in Nigeria while helping small- to medium-sized American companies who cannot stay afloat in the competitive American market.

“My motivation (in founding the chamber) is to moderate the use and transfer of American technology to develop the Nigerian middle class,” which at this point is nonexistent, Mr. Nwosu said.

This objective led to the development of his two-year-old company, Opportunity USA Inc., which Mr. Nwosu said does a lot of the logistical work of transferring technology overseas.

The chamber wants to encourage Georgia’s small businesses to invest in Nigeria because these enterprises can create sustainable growth to close the wealth gap and create stability, he said.

An American partnership with Nigeria would be mutually beneficial for the two countries, Mr. Nwosu said. America could use Nigeria, a predominately pro-American country, to reduce its dependence on hostile countries for oil, while at the same time using joint venture projects to get cheap labor while maintaining jobs at home.

But Mr. Nwosu feels that America has not focused on the West African country enough. The U.S. trade deficit with Nigeria is $8 billion, and the American government should be proactive in closing that gap, he said.

While Asian and European countries have begun investing there, fear of corruption and political instability have discouraged American companies from tapping the Nigerian market.

“America has been showing a deaf ear to the African continent,” he said, and lack of awareness about Nigeria is one of the main issues the chamber is trying to correct.

With close to 150 million people, roughly half the size of the population of the U.S., Nigeria’s 36-state republic is the most populous country in Africa.

In 2005, the chamber conducted a survey that found about 25,000 Nigerians living in the Atlanta area, Mr. Nwosu said.

With the help of lobbying from city officials, Delta Air Lines Inc. gained permission this year for a direct flight connecting Atlanta with Lagos, Nigeria’s economic center. Flights are set to begin on Dec. 3.

The chamber is hosting a program called “Nigeria First: Investment Opportunities” at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park on Aug. 12. The event will be broadcast by the Nigerian Television Authority, and Nigerian financial experts will be the keynote speakers.
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American-Nigerian International Chamber of Commerce –
Dr. Henry Sawyerr 770-456-5318