A Reinvigorated U.S.-Africa Foreign Policy: Nationwide Equipment Stewards the Charge
Ed Kostenski is the Founder and President of Nationwide Equipment; an American entrepreneur with a passion for fulfilling the promise of prosperity through accountable partnerships on the African continent, as offered by the United States.
Established in 1983, Nationwide Equipment services customers in over 60 countries, specializing in the sale of mining, construction, and marine equipment. Earning the coveted “E” Star Award, given by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce on behalf of the President of the United States to a select few companies that demonstrate continued export expansion year after year, Ed is proudly involved in infrastructure development campaigns on a truly intercontinental level and with expansion ambitions afoot.
We had the opportunity to connect with Mr. Kostenski ahead of an upcoming departure to N’Djamena, Chad on the brand differentiation of Nationwide Equipment, his humble beginnings, where he sees his enterprise flourishing today, those like it and the industry in which it functions on the continent of Africa in future.
What was the motivation to export your services to the African continent?
I was 21-years old and fell in love with a beautiful South African woman, who has been since and is today my wife, Susanne; the bedrock of our enterprise. We shared a drive for revitalizing opportunity on the continent and I had only recently at that point started Nationwide Equipment, at my kitchen table in Jacksonville, Florida.
We together followed the cyclical trends in commodity trading and infrastructure development and evolved our practice, collaborating with partners from the Asian ‘Tiger’ markets and across the African continent to drive our business apparatus effectively and accountable in the emerging markets in which we choose to operate today.
Certain commodity crises at present equate to the need for diversification in Africa and we look forward to continuing to play a role in that process.
Who would you label as your competition in Africa?
I would contend that we have no direct competition, given the diverse nature of our offering. We finance projects with clarity and execute with accountability. We work with conglomerates such as Caterpillar Construction and those outfits that share our mantra and commitment to effectiveness in execution.
Our efforts are wholly collaborative, our condition-reports, as but an example, are detailed and together, we craft a tailor-made recipe for success in each of the countries where we hone our craft and endorsements on our work ethic are gratefully abundant.
From the Nationwide portfolio, where do you execute the most business (e.g. machinery sales, financing)?
I would suggest it’s 50/50, as our process itself is cyclical. Financing assuages risk in project management and execution, providing transparency in the sale or lease of the equipment necessary to accomplish our goals.
If there is a ‘wrench in the spokes’ at any stage of this process, many large firms have a tendency to assign blame. We cut through the bureaucracy and are interested only in the end result, with reportage that details saliently throughout project status, often on a daily basis.
How often do you personally travel to Africa and what makes these expeditions traditionally so productive?
I travel to Africa quarterly at the least, 4 times a year on 3-week expeditions, aside from as-needed visits to oversee project management. I truly believe we are living in an era of unparalleled potential on the continent.
Here I cite the incoming Trump Administration. By renegotiating the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) to mutual benefit, which was first initiated under the Clinton Administration, Mr. Trump can strengthen American exports, create new export-related jobs in both the U.S. and Africa and foster diversification and development-oriented investment.
The world shook when Mr. Trump was announced President-Elect of the United States of America, reverberations carrying across the Atlantic with regard to the conclusion of a campaign full of emotion and most importantly, promise.
History has taught us that many were once dubious about what former President George W. Bush would accomplish in African foreign policy while in the Executive Office; at his tenure’s conclusion, however, his record in Africa was soundly productive. And while one can’t assume to prognosticate on what Mr. Trump’s immediate interests are and how he will manage the governmental bureaucracy, the State Department, USAID, and various institutions, we can foresee the potential for the prosperity I mention.
Atlantic Council Board Director Ahmed Charai stated that in three words, a foreign policy agenda that today, President Trump can pursue that will create American jobs, reduce terrorism, challenge China, and even set him apart is to “Promote African development.”
I’m here today to contend that there is no better place to reset foreign policy than in Africa, a hub for innovation and foreign investment integration.
What does the future hold for Nationwide Equipment/Finance in Africa?
It’s a bright future, much like that of emerging markets budding across the continent of Africa. I’ve been operating with efficacy for over 33 years and remain the chief point of contact for existing and future clients, 24 hours a day, if necessary.
We will see a visible increase in mining and agribusiness amidst commodity crises, infrastructure and housing booms undertaken as both a necessity and as a humanitarian exercise in Africa and further private-sector integration from the United States in an effort to compete with China.
I look forward to future endeavors with our Team at Nationwide and welcome engaging stakeholders on collaborative synergy in the Africa opportunity.
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