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African Business Guide

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See also:     Resources by Country     Multiregional Resources


Background    Problems of Bibliographic Control    Collection Scope and Audience    Identification, Evaluation, and Selection Process   Selection Methodology and Guidelines


Africa's vast potential in the global emerging market can no longer be ignored. With more than 12 percent of the World's population, the 48 nations of Sub-Saharan Africa have a rapidly growing market of over 800 million consumers offering enormous commercial potential for U.S. business owners. The continent also offers investors enormous untapped raw materials and natural resources. According to the Department of Commerce, in 2000, the U.S. exported more to the sub-Saharan African countries than to all the states of the former Soviet Union combined, (Russia included). In 2001, foreign direct investment by the United States in Africa more than quadrupled to $3.8 billion. It is also noteworthy to point out that the sub-Saharan African countries supply 18% of American oil needs.

Since the mid-1990s a number of important measures to improve US-African economic and commercial relations have materialized. In 1994, the Uruguay Round Agreements Act on Africa directed the Clinton Administration to develop a trade and development policy toward Africa and to report on this policy to Congress annually for five years. In 1997, the Administration launched its Partnership for Economic Growth and Opportunity in Africa trade initiative, integrating the key objectives of trade incentives for economic reforms underway in the region, enhanced U.S. economic engagement, integration of the Africa region into the global trading system, and support for sustainable economic and social development.1 In 1998, the administration appointed an Assistant U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) for Africa and a senior advisor for African programs at the Export-Import Bank.2 In addition, the Administration hosted the first annual U.S.-sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum to discuss expanding trade and economic relations between the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa.3 Symbolically, President Clinton's notable trips to Africa in 1996 and 1998 also transformed U.S. relations with the sub-Saharan African nations. The visits highlighted Africa's opportunities as well as U.S. support for economic transformations underway in the region.

Complementary to the Partnership Initiatives, a number of legislative proposals have caused greater attention to be given to emerging economic and business opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa. In May 2000, President Clinton signed the historic African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), an unprecedented trade bill for Africa designed to open the U.S. market to products made in Africa. The bill is the first ever trade and investment legislation on Africa to be considered by members of the U.S.Congress. It introduces a new era of U.S. foreign policy in Africa and establishes a new paradigm for the development of closer economic ties and constructive U.S. engagement with the African region.4 The AGOA and greater US-Africa trade and commercial partnerships are also strongly supported by the U.S. private sector with interests in Africa and the present Bush Administration.5 At the same time, African government and private sector leaders, regional organizations, and multilateral development institutions, such as the African Development Bank Group and the World Bank Group, are establishing policies and multilateral agreements to facilitate sustainable private sector economic growth and development in the African nations.6

Problems of Bibliographic Control

A major challenge to the U.S. and global business community considering trade and investment in the sub-Saharan African countries is access to credible and timely analytical information to make knowlegeable, definitive business decisions. The growing demand for up-to-date macro- and microeconomic information on industry trends, business opportunities, and private sector economies in the African countries is increasing at a prolific rate. At present, data and information on business and investment opportunities, planned privatization initiatives, tax and investment incentives, and economic development policy issues in the African economies is scattered in multiple data sources, and often inaccessible. Reliable bibliographic and indexing tools which provide access to information on the African business and financial sectors are from complete. Moreover, a great variety of .non-conventional' literature of, typically of an ephemera nature, such as unpublished technical reports, working papers, feasiblity studies, and discussion papers seldom comes under bibliographic control; hence their acquisition and identification remain problematic. In addition, official publications about the African private sector and business and industry trends issued by African governmental bodies and corporate-based research centers, regional organizations, and international organizations such as the Economic Commission for Africa and the Africa Development Bank can very difficult to obtain.

On the Internet, the growing body of African business information resources remains scattered and largely invisible and researchers may spend countless frustrating and often unproductive hours. For instance, finding out what exists and then trying to retrieve it typically requires not only a series of research avenues, but a substantial investment of time.

To fill the void that exists where African business and economic information and analytical data is concerned, and to provide more substantial services to researchers, there is a need to improve bibliographic control and access to existing African business-related information resources available in electronic formats. For purposes of this document, electronic information sources include Internet sites, World Wide Web products, and other sources of information that users may directly access in an electronic format.

Collection Scope and Audience

This Africa Business Resource Index is an annotated guide to selected sources of business information on the African countries that can be found on the Internet. The sampling of information resources have been identified and evaluated for the ongoing development of a centralized source or .portal model' of quality Africa-focused business, trade and investment information resources. In its first version, the Index will focus on providing access to a collection of Internet resources for African business and financial information primarily at the continental or region-specific level; however, some country-specific information sources may also be included. These citations are only suggested references. Coverage includes general business directories focused on international trade, financial, legal, and market information, industry analysis, basic country economic and statistical data, business and industry news, stock and currency exchanges, and specialized business journals.

Priority will be given to Internet-based resources which provide substantial sources of information on African business topics frequently required by practicing business professionals, decisionmakers in public and private sectors, students in business, and teachers. Generally, only resources that are available free of charge on the Internet will be considered. It should be noted, however, that valuable full text news, reports, and financial and business information for the countries of the sub-Saharan African region is also available through searches of a number of fee-based commercial online bibliographic databases, including Dialog, Dow Jones Interactive, Lexis Nexis, and the Reuters Business Insight information service.

Moreover, one should not forget the growing number of specialized African business publications such as Africa Economic Digest, Africa Investment Monitor, Africa Research Bulletin: Economic Series, African Business, African Financing Review, African Review of Business and Technology, Business in Africa, Finance Africa, and Journal of African Business available in traditional print formats. Additionally, a number of useful reference compendiums including The African Business Handbook, Africa Banking Directory, African Stock Exchanges Handbook, Investing In Africa, Major Companies of Africa South of the Sahara, and World Investment Directory provide up-to-date information about business opportunities and trends in the African economies.

Identification, Evaluation, and Selection Process

The Africa Business Information Resource Index is the outgrowth of a project under development as part of the Business and Economic Resources Online program (BEOnline) undertaken by the Bibliographic Enrichment Advisory Team (BEAT) of the Cataloging Directorate of the Library of Congress. Established in 1996 as a pilot project, BEOnline+ is intended to serve as "both a model and a catalyst for developing approaches to identifying and providing bibliographic control and access to electronic resources."7 Utilizing BE Online+ and OCLC's Connexion Service, formerly its Cooperative Online Resource Catalog (CORC), the electronic information sources that will be evaluated and selected for the Index will be provided with full MARC cataloging records. To enhance information retrieval, the minimal identification and retrieval data will include the title of the Internet resource and its URL address. Access to the Internet-based reference tool will be available through the Library of Congress' Science, Technology and Business Division Website (available on the World Wide Web at

The Internet sources selected for the Index were chosen to give representational examples of the wide range of electronically stored materials currently available for researching African business topics. Depending on the type of information one needs, there are a number of useful subject directories and searching facilities for finding quality Internet sites. These resources vary significantly in their coverage. The following examples provide a good starting point for effectively identifying relevant websites that may be useful for locating African business information resources:

Africa South of the Sahara -- Selected Internet Resources
African Studies Internet Resources
Global Edge: International Business Resources
Union of International Associations
Web Resources for International Economics and Business

Selection Methodology and Guidelines

One of the principal challenges facing anyone using electronic resources for serious information or research purposes is the evaluation of quality. This Index is intended as a working tool to help manage this challenge. The selected Internet resources for this project have been evaluated and selected in accordance with BEOnline+ Selection Criteria8 and current Library of Congress selection policies as outlined in LC Collections Policy Statements (CPS)9 and guidelines for print collections of business and economic materials. In addition, the evaluation criteria for information in electronic formats established by the American Library Association's Reference and User Services Association Machine Assisted Reference Services (ALA RUSA MARS)10 was used to assess the Internet-based resources. Specific selection criteria considered when evaluating Internet resources included the following:

  • Is content relevant
  • Is content of substantial intellectual quality to meet information needs of intended audience?
  • Is content useful for research and instruction?
  • What is the reputation, expertise, and credentials of the author(s)/publisher who produced the source materials?
  • How current is the information and how frequent is resource updated?
  • Is access to the site free?
  • Is site user friendly with an effective interface?

Revisions of the African Business Resource Index are planned on a continuing basis, as changes in the availability, coverage, and quality of various Internet-based information resources take place.

1A comprehensive U.S. Trade and Development Policy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa. A Report Submitted by the President of the United States to Congress. The Fourth of Five Annual Reports. December 1993., p. 1.

2In a new demonstration of U.S. Government commitment, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation committed nearly 1 billion dollars to African private sector projects.

3 The U.S. Africa-Africa Economic Forum is a cabinet/minister level annual meeting focused on debt relief, development assistance, and measures to improve future U.S.-Africa trade relations.

4 Today, virtually every U.S. Government agency has active programs and initiatives aimed at enhancing U.S. econoic and trade ties with Africa, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Labor, State, Transportation, and Treasury, as well as agencies such as the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

5 The establishment of the Corporate Council on Africa in 1995, with a corporate membership of over 150 major corporations and firms significantly involved in Africa, is indicative of growing U.S. interest in Africa.

6 Adnan Kassar. "Private Sector Growth is Good News Out of Africa." Journal of Commerce. March 23, 2000.

7BEOnline+ Project Details

8Selection Criteria for Internet Resources included in BEOnline Plus

9Collections Policy Statements Library of Congress. Collection Development.

10Criteria for Selection of MARS Best Reference Websites

Last updated: 07/16/2015

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  July 16, 2015
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