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September 23, 2003

Energy of Africa Draws the Eyes of Houston

By SIMON ROMERO

HOUSTON, Sept. 22 - When Angola recently opened its only consulate outside New York, few people here were surprised that Houston was chosen.

Texas already leads the nation in trade and commerce with Africa. More than 1,000 Houston companies do business there, and 60 have significant subsidiaries on the continent, according to the city of Houston.

The city may have a way to go before it becomes a de facto commercial capital to Africa the way Miami is for much of Latin America, but it is becoming increasingly important to African commerce and diplomacy. And the city is becoming a significant starting point for affluent Africans seeking to do business in the United States.

The reason is oil. This is the energy capital of the United States, and West African countries like Angola, Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria are increasingly important suppliers of oil. They already account for about 14 percent of all American oil imports, and are forecast to supply 20 percent soon.

That has drawn giant energy corporations like Exxon Mobil and ChevronTexaco to the region, as well as midsize companies in related fields, like Bivac International, a company that inspects cargo at ports, and the Hanover Compressor Company, a provider of natural gas compression equipment.

"We already have a presence in Nigeria, but we want to be in Angola," said Steve Russom, Hanover's vice president for product development and technology. "The domestic oil and gas market is kind of flat, but Houston's still the epicenter for the energy industry, essentially the place where we can put together deals anywhere."

The interest of energy companies in West Africa is encouraging ventures in a variety of fields. EDI Architecture, like dozens of other companies here, is betting its future on strengthening ties to Africa. It designed the Angolan consulate here, a luxurious corporate suite discreetly decorated with the burgundy and gold colors of the nation's flag.

The hunger for additional deals is not lost on Houston's leaders. Mayor Lee P. Brown, for instance, led the first trade mission of any American city to Luanda, the Angolan capital, this month. He went with 20 executives interested in reaching business agreements in Angola, a southwestern African country about twice the size of Texas and rich in oil.

Mr. Brown also visited neighboring Namibia, a mineral-rich former German colony of two million people. The port of Houston concluded the trip with an agreement to provide consulting advice to the Namibian port of Walvis Bay.

EDI Architecture was among the more experienced participants, having already built American-style residential compounds in Angola for Exxon Mobil and Angola's national petroleum company. It is currently building a 20-story office tower in Luanda.

"It's not like there are Wal-Marts or Home Depots in Africa where people with money can consume," said Darcy Garneau, associate principal at EDI, which has opened an office in Luanda. "When we build a residential compound there we bring in everything down to the forks and knives, and that's an opportunity for us."

Whetting the appetite for more opportunities are expectations that the expansion of West Africa's oil industry is just beginning. It is expected to account for one of every five barrels of growth in global oil production capacity in the next decade, according to Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

New ventures in smaller countries like Chad, the Congo Republic, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe, and Niger are expected to account for much of the growth.

"Conducting business in the region requires a healthy appetite for risk," said Rogers Beall, a businessman here with a contract to help negotiate oil exploration agreements for Guinea-Bissau, a West African country of 1.3 million whose president, Kumba Yala, was ousted in a bloodless coup last week. Mr. Beall said he expected the military officers in charge of the government, led by Gen. Verissimo Correia Seabra, or other transitional leaders to continue to use his advice on moving forward with oil exploration plans.

Despite such complications along the way, prospects in Africa are drawing many companies in Houston that are not in the energy business but are related to it. Charter airlines, construction companies, port inspectors and transportation companies based here are trying to seize on Africa-related opportunities.

Among the companies represented in the Angola mission were large energy concerns like Exxon Mobil, ChevronTexaco and Devon Energy. But so were smaller companies, including Hanover Compressor, Bivac and Houston Express, a new airline that is offering nonstop service from Houston to Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, and to Luanda.

The airline is backed by Sonair, the aviation subsidiary of Angola's national oil company. The Luanda flights are not cheap, running $3,615 for a round-trip ticket in coach, $5,915 for business class and $8,240 for first class. The airline is clearly focused on business travelers, with its MD-11's outfitted with 12 first-class seats, 78 business-class seats and 21 coach seats.

There are several other reasons Houston, the nation's fourth-largest city, has been quick to establish ties with Africa. Largely because of the need for employees of energy companies to travel back and forth from drilling areas, Houston has some of the nation's best transportation links to Africa, including direct flights to African capitals like Johannesburg and Lagos, Nigeria, as well as the service to Malabo and Luanda.

At the same time, the port of Houston, the leading American port in terms of foreign tonnage, exported more goods to Africa last year, 33,374 tons, than to Asia, 23,346 tons. Over all, Africa accounted for 5 percent of the port's total trade in 2002, more than the Middle East, Central America and or the Caribbean.

Influential emigres like Kase L. Lawal, a Nigerian-born businessman and owner of Camac Holdings, a Houston-based oil company with interests in Nigeria and South Africa, are another reason Houston's influence in Africa is growing. There are about 20,000 people from just one country - Nigeria - here already, for example. More are attracted each year by Houston's warm climate and its reputation as a relatively easy place to establish a business.

While the African immigrant community is still dwarfed by the larger communities of Latinos and Asians who poured into Houston in the last 20 years, the Africans are for the most part better educated than other immigrants - and even native-born Americans in the city. Nearly 35 percent of Africans in Houston have college degrees and 28 percent have postgraduate degrees, compared with 28 percent of American-born whites with college degrees and 16 percent with postgraduate degrees, said Stephen Klineberg, a professor of sociology at Rice University.

This has allowed some Africans to advance in areas like banking and publishing as well as energy. And that suits Chido Nwangwu, the publisher of USAfrica, the nation's largest African-owned newspaper, just fine.

"The main problem with the relationship between Houston and Africa is that it is predominantly based on the energy industry," said Mr. Nwangwu, a native of Nigeria who recently created a magazine called Class for affluent Africans in the United States. "We're at risk of becoming too dependent on one area if we don't achieve a wider mix of transactional interchanges."

To be sure, most of the investments in Africa by companies from Houston are focused on extracting natural resources like oil, gas and timber. Few involve direct investment in factories or manufacturing plants that create jobs and lay the foundation for sustained economic growth.

Still, such efforts are part of Houston's aspiration to become a global city like New York and Los Angeles. Mr. Klineberg said Houston's best chance of achieving this was through a "realization that our location near depleting oil fields won't cut it anymore."

"Houston was a biracial city dominated by white men for much of its history," Mr. Klineberg said. "If we're to get beyond that system and capitalize on our diversity, it has to be done by thinking internationally."

________________________________________________________________________________

LATEST NEWS

September 18, 2003

Canada opens new consulate in Houston

The Government of Canada has opened a new Canadian Consulate in Houston, one of seven new consulates in the United States.

Canada is also upgrading two existing consulates to consulates general and appointing 20 honorary consuls. The move is intended to strengthen Canada's capacity to advocate its interests in vital economic, political and security matters, and to develop innovative strategic partnerships in emerging U.S. economic power centers.

The Canadian Consulate in Houston is located at 5847 San Felipe, Suite 1700. The Consulate will focus on trade, energy and technology relationships between Canada and Houston. The Consulate is currently staffed by Business Development Officer Maryanne Tidwell. Additional staff will be added later.

"I want to compliment the citizens of Houston who have made Canadians feel welcome and encouraged us to open a consulate here," Canadian Consul General Jean-Michel Roy said.

In addition to Houston, Canada will open a new consulate general in Denver and new consulates in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; San Diego, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Anchorage, Alaska.

The existing consulates in Miami and San Francisco will be upgraded to consulates general.

The enhanced representation initiative will be completed by the fall of 2004.

This will bring Canada's representation in the United States to 22 offices. The honorary consuls will be appointed in important U.S. cities to champion Canadian interests where there are no Canadian government offices.

This initiative is intended to reinforce Canada's presence in the United States and fill gaps in its current representation, particularly in the Southeast, Southwest and Midwest.

________________________________________________________________________________

Consulates

There is no need to feel alone in Houston if you're from another country. Many Texas Medical Center institutions offer interpreter services for foreign languages. Also, interpreters are often available through local consulates.

Name of Country

Mailing Address

(NOTE: All are in TEXAS)

Telephone Number

Fax Number

Albania 20682 Sweetglen Drive, Porter 77365

(281) 354-0789

(281) 354-7255

Angola 3040 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 780, Houston 77056

(713) 212-3840

(713) 212-3841

Argentina 3050 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 1625, Houston 77056

(713) 871-8935

(713) 871-0639

Australia 5757 Woodway Drive, Suite 175, Houston 77057

(713) 782-6009

(713) 782-7509

Austria P.O. Box 35841, Houston 77235

(713) 723-9979

(713)863-7037

Bangladesh 35 N. Wynden Drive, Houston 77056

(713) 621-8700

(713) 622-3964

Barbados P.O. Box 576, Katy 77492

(281) 392-9794

(281) 395-8526

Belgium 2009 Lubbock St., Houston 77007

(713) 426-3933

(713) 224-1120

Belize 7101 Breen, Houston 77086

(713) 999-4484

(281) 999-0855

Bolivia 800 WIlcrest, Suite 100 Houston 77042

(713) 977-2344

(713) 977-2362

Botswana 10000 Memorial Drive, SUite 400, Houston 77024

(713) 680-1155

(713) 680-8055

Brazil 1700 W. Loop South, Suite 1450, Houston 77027

(713) 961-3063

(713) 961-3070

Cameroon 2711 Weslayan, Houston 77027

(936) 336-6401

(713) 774-7319

Chile 1360 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 1330, Houston 77056

(713) 963-9066

(713) 621-8672

China 3417 Montrose Blvd., Houston 77006

(713) 524-0780

(713) 524-7656

Colombia 5851 San Felipe, Suite 300, Houston 77075

(713) 527-9093

(713) 529-3395

Costa Rica 3000 WIlcrest Drive, Suite 112, Houston 77042

(713) 266-0484

(713) 266-1527

Cyprus 1128 River Glyn Drive, Houston 77063

(713) 928-2264

(713) 928-2093

Czech Republic 4544 Post Oak Place Drive, Suite 378, Houston 77027

(713) 629-6963

(713) 629-9606

Denmark 4545 Post Oak Place, Suite 347, Houston 77027

(713) 622-9018

(713) 622-7512

Dominican Republic 3300 Gessner, Suite 113, Houston 77063

(713) 266-0165

(713) 780-1543

Ecuador 4200 Westheimer, Suite 218, Houston 77027

(713) 572-8731

(713) 572-8732

Egypt 1990 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 2180, Houston 77056

(713) 961-4915

(713) 961-3868

El Salvador 6420 Hillcroft, Suite 2180, Houston 77056

(713) 270-6239

(713) 270-9683

Ethiopia 9301 Southwest Freeway, Suite 250, Houston 77074

(713) 271-7628

(713) 772-3858

Finland 31 Pinewold Circle, Houston 77056

(713) 552-1722

(713) 552-1676

France 777 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 600 Houston 77056

(713) 572-2799

(713) 572-2911

Georgia 3040 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 700, Houston 77056

(713) 585-3500

(713) 585-3532

Germany 1330 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 1850, Houston 77056

(713) 627-7770

(713) 627-0506

Ghana 3434 Locke Lane, Houston 77027

(713) 960-8806

(713) 960-8833

Greece 520 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 310, Houston 77027

(713) 840-7522

(713) 840-0614

Guatemala 3013 Fountainview, Suite 210, Houston 77057

(713) 953-9531

(713) 953-9383

Guyana P.O. Box 440851, Houston 77244

(281) 497-4466

(281) 497-4476

Haiti 6310 Auden, Houston 77005

(713) 661-8275

(713) 588-5110

Honduras 4151 Southwest Freeway, Suite 700, Houston 77027

(713) 622-4572

(713) 622-3540

Hungary P.O. Box 27253, Houston 77227

(713) 529-2727

(713) 529-2870

Iceland 2348 W. Settlers Way, The Woodlands, 77380

(281) 367-2440

(281) 362-4385

India 1990 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 600, Houston 77056

(713) 626-2148

(713) 626-2450

Indonesia 10900 Richmond Ave., Houston 77042

(713) 785-1691

(713) 780-9644

Ireland 2711 Weslayan, Houston 77027

(713) 961-5263

(713) 961-3850

Israel

24 Greenway Plaza, Suite 1500, Houston 77046

(713) 627-3780

(713) 627-0149

Italy 1300 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 660, Houston 77056

(713) 850-7520

(713) 850-9113

Jamaica 7737 Southwest Freeway, Suite 580, Houston 77074

(713) 541-3333

(713) 774-4277

Japan 1000 Louisiana, Suite 2300, Houston 77002

(713) 652-2977

(713) 651-7822

Jordan P.O. Box 3727, Houston 77253

(713) 224-2911

(713) 228-8650

Korea 1990 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 1250, Houston 77056

(713) 961-0186

(713) 961-3340

Kyrgyzstan 15600 Barkers Landing Road, Suite 1, Houston 77079

(281) 920-1841

(281) 920-1823

Latvia 2825 Wilcrest Drive, Suite 530, Houston 77042

(713) 888-0404

(713) 952-1110

Lebanon 1701 Hermann Drive, Suite 1305, Houston 77004

(713) 268-1640

(713) 526-2404

Malta 1221 Lamar, Suite 620, Houston 77010

(713) 654-7900

(713) 650-6815

Mexico 4507 San Jacinto St., Houston 77004

(713) 271-6800

(713) 271-3201

Mongolia P.O. Box 328, Houston 77001

(713) 759-1922

(713) 951-9145

Morocco 2121 Kirby Drive, Suite 144, Houston 77019

(713) 521-7607

(713) 521-7551

Netherlands 2200 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 610, Houston 77056

(713) 622-8000

(713) 622-3581

New Zealand 246 Warrenton Drive, Houston 77024

(713) 973-8680

(713) 973-6679

Nicaragua 8989 Westheimer, Suite 103, Houston 77063

(713) 789-2762

(713) 789-3164

Norway 2777 Allen Parkway, Suite 1185, Houston 77019

(713) 521-2900

(713) 521-9473

Panama 24 Greenway Plaza, Suite 1307, Houston 77046

(713) 622-4451

(713) 622-4468

Paraguay

(713) 558-9878

Peru 5177 Richmond Ave., Suite 695, Houston 77056

(713) 355-9517

(713) 355-9377

Philippines 8 Greenway Plaza, Suite 930, Houston 77046

(713) 877-6700

(713) 877-7192

Poland 2718 St. Anne Drive, Sugar Land, 77479

(281) 565-8900

(281) 565-6278

Portugal 600 Travis, Suite 6700, Houston 77002

(713) 759-1188

(713) 237-0401

Qatar 1990 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 810, Houston 77056

(713) 355-8221

(713) 355-8184

Romania 4265 San Felipe, Suite 220, Houston 77027

(713) 629-1551

(713) 629-1553

Saudi Arabia 5718 Westheimer, Suite 1500, Houston 77057

(713) 785-5577

(713) 785-1163

Slovenia 2925 Briarpark, 7th Floor, Houston 77042

(713) 430-7350

(713) 430-7077

Spain 1800 Bering Drive, Suite 660, Houston 77057

(713) 783-6200

(713) 783-6166

Sweden 2909 Hillcroft, SUite 515, Houston 77057

(713) 953-1417

(713) 953-7776

Switzerland 1000 Louisiana, Suite 5670, Houston 77002

(713) 650-0000

(713) 650-1321

Syria 5433 Westheimer, Suite 1020, Houston 77056

(713) 622-8860

(713) 622-8872

Thailand 600 Travis St., Suite 2800, Houston 77002

(713) 229-8733

(713) 228-1303

Trinidad & Tobago 6420 Richmond Ave., Suite 219, Houston 77057

(713) 465-4660

(713) 464-5418

Tunisia

(713) 782-9021

Turkey 1990 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 1300, Houston 77056

(713) 622-5849

(713) 623-6639

Ukraine 2934 Fairway Drive., Sugar Land 77478

(281) 242-2842

(281) 242-2842

United Kingdom 1000 Louisiana, Suite 1900, Houston 77002

(713) 659-6270

(713) 659-7094

Venezuela 2925 Briarpark Drive, Suite 900, Houston 77042

(713) 974-0028

(713) 974-1413

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Houston certainly is a much more international city than I think people imagine.

Houston Express, a new airline that is offering nonstop service from Houston to Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, and to Luanda.

Are these regularly scheduled flights or a more charter like airline?

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