Green International Trade Missions

About the author: Jessica Arnold joined the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration’s Environmental Technologies Team in 2007 as an associate team member. Last spring, she spent a month in Sub-Saharan Africa with U.S. companies on a multi-sector trade mission designed to help facilitate U.S. exports to the region.

If you search the Internet for images of Lagos, Nigeria, you’ll probably find many photos. With more than 120 million people living in Nigeria, it is the most heavily populated country in Sub-Saharan Africa and, until recently, has put very little focus on the environment. Nigeria’s president, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, said in 2008 that, “the country’s annual losses stemming from environmental degradation total nearly $5.1 billion.”

In the spring of 2008, I participated in a multi-sector trade mission to three countries (Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa) in Sub-Saharan Africa led by the International Trade Administration (ITA). Trade missions are one of the key tools ITA uses to help U.S. businesses export products and services and enter new markets.

So, with President Ya’Adua’s comment in mind, I thought, “We’re off to visit three countries that want newer and more efficient technologies to help them clean their air, their water, and their waste.” I set a goal for myself to make sure that multiple U.S. companies focused on environmental technology products were part of the trade mission and would have the opportunity to begin or expand exports to these markets where their products and services could truly be helpful.

I was very happy to find that the U.S. industry was both enthusiastic about and capable of filling this need as four of the 13 companies on the trade mission were environmental firms or involved with environmental technologies in some way. I’m also thrilled to report that as a direct result of this trade mission, at least one company, a renewable energy company based in Michigan, secured contracts to develop solar efficiency projects in Nigeria and South Africa.

As green technologies developed by U.S. industry continue to advance and the interest and demand for products and services derived from those technologies from foreign markets grows, ITA will be leading three green trade missions this spring: an environmental technology mission to Italy, Greece, and Croatia; a solar energy mission to India; and a green building products and services mission to Southeast Asia. I look forward to returning to Greenversations in the future to share experiences and report on successes from these trade missions. In the meantime, please visit us at: