The Afribiz Foundation is implementing a global trade and investment catalyst network – City-to-City Clusters™ – between US and foreign cities, particularly those in emerging markets. This is occurring amidst an inherently isolationist, domestic, and fragmented global focus for economic development and growth amongst US metropolitan areas. Without global trade and investment exchanges, US cities will not be able to sustain growth in the long-term as noted in The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy. The authors also note that the US national economy will only grow with the growth of cities and metropolitan areas as the majority of economic activity in the US occurs within them. In essence, the US economy is a “network of metropolitan economies.”
A cluster is a group of loosely connected entities working together as a single entity to share and leverage resources, networks, knowledge, etc. The concept of clusters is very familiar in business settings, e.g., Silicon Valley tech cluster. We have adapted the framework for cities to incorporate businesses across sectors, as well as supporting institutions in the government, social, and academic sectors. The City-to-City Cluster (CCC) structure establishes bi-lateral, impactful interactions centered around concrete business and economic development projects from strategic opportunities around the globe between two or more cities, such as Charlotte, North Carolina and Johannesburg, South Africa.
Charlotte, North Carolina is the location for first group of CCCs. Charlotte, a nascent global trade and investment hub, is paired with Johannesburg, South Africa and Hong Kong, China, which are leading global trade and investment hubs for their regions respectively. The Charlotte-Johannesburg and Charlotte-Hong Kong CCCs catalyze and accelerate inward and outward trade, investment, skilled labor, and intellectual property/knowledge/information flows.
The CCC methodology will help the Charlotte metro region augment and accelerate its burgeoning global trade (export and import) and investment (outbound and inbound) flows. The methodology will also help strengthen the region’s ability to develop sustainable growth in the medium- and long-terms via global exchanges.
The Charlotte metro region is already known for its ability to work across silos in business, government, and social sectors. The city itself successfully hosted the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Other successes of note are the
catalytic development of the largest energy cluster in the United States in only a few years and the development of a synergistic working relationship (Charlotte Regional Partnership – www.charlotteusa.com) between over 15 counties and cities in North Carolina and South Carolina to implement a regional strategy to mutually benefit all.
Several agencies within Charlotte – Charlotte Regional Partnership, City of Charlotte, and the Charlotte Chamber Commerce – are already forging global exchanges with Brazil, China, Germany, France, etc. However, there are still major gaps that the Charlotte CCCs can help close like lack of exchanges with Africa, India, and moving deeper into emerging markets. The CCCs can also help develop innovations to resolve issues, e.g., the gap in trade finance at the local level and broaden the base of firms able to engage in global exchanges.
The CCC methodology utilizes four catalytic/acceleration vehicles. The first one is transnational entrepreneurs, who navigate and do business simultaneously in at least two countries. They have the unique position of being considered insiders in each country of operation, which can help develop relationships more rapidly and smoothly. In addition, they can develop unique configurations for business opportunities that others can miss.
The other catalytic/acceleration vehicles include synergizing existing formal and informal structures/networks, leveraging complementary competitive advantages, resources, and markets between cities, and developing and maintaining partnership ecosystems that are fluid.
The Charlotte CCCs have emerged from the Charlotte Africa Cluster (CAC), which is currently driving economic opportunities for North Carolina firms in the energy, infrastructure, manufacturing, and agricultural sectors in African countries. The CAC has developed partnership ecosystems for South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya to date.