Pius Ezigwe, a Maryland distributor of goods from Africa, was experiencing customs issues while importing containers into the United States. He was levied fines that were excessive in comparison to those of other importers, and his containers were often seized and held for long periods. He felt what was happening to his imports was discriminatory.
In discussions with other importers, especially other African importers, he discovered that his situation was shared by others, in addition to problems he hadn’t experienced. Because of what he realized were common trade problems, he felt that these obstacles were the result of not having a unified support group that could collectively act to eliminate these difficulties for the best interest of all African businesses operating on the East Coast. With that in mind, the African Food Merchants Association was formed in 2018.
Two years later, African businesses in sectors beyond food – clothing, artifacts, etc. – have said they were interested in joining an active trade group. Consequently, the African Food Merchants Association has merged with the African Business Collective to form the African Merchants Association.
The mission of the African Merchants Association is to enhance U.S.-Africa trade among the Diaspora community. We aim to support, educate, and provide access to resources for our members.
Our vision is to be the premier advocacy organization for all African Diaspora merchants within the United States. Independently, we may survive, but through collective knowledge and action, we can all truly thrive.
What We Have Achieved
Some of our major accomplishments include:
- Raising funds needed to hire a lawyer for New York and DC members. All member containers were released within the next 24 hours of hiring the legal representative.
- Facilitating group purchases among African grocers who were struggling to compete with Asian/Latino business trying to enter to the African foods market.
We have two current initiatives:
Next Gen Initiative
- Focusing on forging relationships with the emerging leaders of our industry. These are among the millennials, Gen X, and Gen Z who have inherited the family business or tapping into the African products industry in innovative ways.
- Encouraging the growth of young entrepreneurs, while offering much-needed information and guidance.
African Imports Research
- Funding studies with a focus on African Importers.
- Collecting data on African importers, the products and goods being traded, locating origin and source of products, identifying unfamiliar products in an effort to ease two-way trade between the US & Africa.
- Developing linkages between producers in Africa and existing businesses in the US.