The largest ever contingent of African heads-of-state assembled in Washington, D.C. the week of Aug. 4 for the U.S.-Africa Summit, the first time the United States has ever hosted a summit of that magnitude for representatives from Africa.
More than fifty African leaders and hundreds of corporate executives and entrepreneurs descended on the nation’s capital looking to increase private sector investment and expand trade.
Though the event is being hailed as an unprecedented success and a defining moment in U.S.-Africa relations, there was a glaring omission in the massive turnout that has turned into a key narrative about the summit: the limited representation of African-American businesses and entrepreneurs. The prevailing thought is that entrepreneurs of color are reluctant to engage the continent as a prime location for generating revenue—a notion that is mind-boggling when one considers the shared bonds of history and heritage.
Another underlying thread was the nagging suspicion that the U.S may be joining the “invest in Africa” party a little late.
BlackEnterprise.com spoke with four people with unique insight on these two key issues: Valerie Jarrett, senior White House adviser; Olusegun Aganga, Nigeria’s minister of industries and trade; Danladi Verheijen, managing director at Verod Capital; a leading investment firm in Lagos, Nigeria and Rosa Whitaker, the first ever Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa in the George W. Bush and Clinton administrations.
On the issue of whether the U.S should have engaged Africa sooner, Aganga says, “President Obama implied the same thing when he delivered his speech at the Mandarin Hotel. This should have been done years ago. But we have welcomed the United States into the country with open arms. What we should turn our attention to is how to use this momentum to facilitate the process. The U.S can leapfrog other nations doing business in the continent simply because of their reputation for quality products.”
Find out Senior White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett’s insights on U.S. investment in Africa on the next page …