Could Arizona become a leading trade partner with Africa? People behind the online network known as the African Business Portal (ABP) say yes—by making Africa our virtual neighbor. 'There are huge economic opportunities for Arizona to become a central hub of doing business in Africa,” says Leland Clegg, President of the ABP. “On a virtual basis there is no ocean, there are no land masses, and the ability to connect and engage is wide open here in Arizona'. Clegg told MAG's Economic Development Committee that ABP has a vision of economic change as it relates to U.S. and African small to medium enterprises (SMEs). He says SMEs are the real job creators on both continents. 'Many things can happen in a fairly short period of time, even when there have not been strong trade relations, as U.S. products and services are in high demand in Africa,' said Clegg. And Africa is growing. According to the ABP, Africa has a population of 1.3 billion people, and that will double by 2050. Africa has the largest youth demographic in the world, and 60 percent of the world's arable land. The country has abundant natural resources of oil, minerals and forestry to fuel the world's economic engines. When it comes to rare earth minerals, Africa has almost a third of the world's reserves. As a comparison, U.S. trade with Africa (imports and exports) was only one percent of the U.S. total trade with all other countries in 2018. The percentage of U.S. exports to other regions in 2018 was significantly higher; for example, 18 percent to Canada, 16 percent to Mexico, 22 percent to Europe, and 7 percent to China. Clegg says that ABP's mission to promote U.S. trade and investment is to make Africa our 'virtual' neighbor, through webinars, connecting advisors, and providing a platform for project and event communication. ABP also engages African investment promotion agencies, trade associations, and chambers of commerce. 'The ABP vision is to connect thousands of African project opportunities with millions of potential partners in the U.S. and around the world,” says Clegg. “It is important that the U.S. learn how to engage Africa, and how to create critical fuel for our economy'.