From the Desk of the CEO: March 2024

In February, I had the privilege of participating in a USDA Agribusiness Trade Mission to Angola. USDA Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small led the mission, accompanied by USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) staff, including Deputy Administrator of Global Programs Mark Slupek. Food Export members Suzanne Ryan-Numrich from the Kansas Department of Agriculture and Mark Rhoda-Reis from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, along with our In-Market Representative Richard Zurba and several American suppliers from our mission, joined us in Angola.  

According to the USDA, in 2022, U.S. food and agriculture exports to Angola totaled $236.8 million, making it the seventh largest African market for U.S. exporters. Consumer-oriented products accounted for more than 99 percent of U.S. agricultural and food exports to Angola in 2022.   

Our B2B meetings were exclusively with the executives of the top retailers and distributors, who are enthusiastic about the quality of American products in their growing retail and foodservice channels. 

I appreciated the time with FAS leaders, the tours, the business-to-business meetings, and quality time with suppliers like Caroline Egbelu, who is the CEO of Health Enhanced Foods (HEF). New Jersey-based HEF has worked with Food Export for more than four years. She has taken part in more than 15 webinars, multiple modules, virtual events, Food Show PLUS!™, Market Builder, Foodlink, Buyers Missions, Export Advisor Program, trade missions, and the Branded Program since 2019. 

As a geography enthusiast, my first visit to the African continent reminded me of a couple of lessons. Despite having accumulated many stamps in my passport, I realized I had previously fallen victim to several misconceptions. Here are a few that came to mind: 

  • Mercator Projection Map: This widely used map distorts the size of landmasses, particularly those near the poles. Africa, located near the equator, appears disproportionately smaller on this map, contributing to misconceptions about its true size compared to other continents.   It is estimated that by 2050, one-fourth of the world’s population will reside in Africa. 

  • Totalizing and Essentializing: These tendencies involve oversimplifying complex realities into singular concepts. For example, perceptions of my native Minnesota might overlook its diverse urban areas, ethnic communities, and varied landscapes, reducing it to stereotypes like cold winter sports, abundant lakes, and “Minnesota Nice.” Similarly, totalizing and essentializing Africa might simplify the continent as a monolithic entity, neglecting its diversity, complex histories, rapidly modernizing economies, and varied landscapes. This oversimplification perpetuates stereotypes and misconceptions. As a dangerously bad ice skater, stereotype this Minnesotan at your own risk!

  • Exoticizing: This involves portraying a place or culture as inherently strange or otherworldly. For instance, the movie Fargo exoticizes Minnesota by focusing on exaggerated accents, extreme weather conditions, and quirky characters. Similarly, Out of Africa, set in Kenya, romanticizes Africa as a land of wilderness and mystique, emphasizing safari adventures, colonial encounters, and the relationships between European settlers, while disregarding the continent’s diverse cities, economies, and contemporary realities. This exoticization perpetuates a superficial and distorted view of both places.

While geography lessons might interest some, it’s crucial to recognize how these misconceptions can interfere with the very real business case for taking advantage of opportunities in Angola and elsewhere in Africa. We understand that there will be a learning curve, but we believe the results will be long-lasting.

In any emerging market, there are unique risks, so patience and due diligence are important. One of the biggest challenges is the underdeveloped financial sector in many markets. However, immediate business opportunities await those firms willing to visit and meet with eager trading partners in markets like Angola. Reach out to us if your company wants to be one of them.

Brendan Wilson 

CEO/Executive Director 

Your Input Matters: If there is a topic you wish for me to discuss in this space, let me know. You can reach me at Just put Attn: Brendan Wilson in the subject line. 

Listen to Our Podcast!

Episode 101 – Food Export 101 with Brendan Wilson

Feb 14, 2024 – 27:34 MIN