Washington, DC — The "Africa Forum" organized by the FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative, Gallup, The Africa Society, AllAfrica and Operation HOPE, which was held July 10 for 250 invitees, is being called a "substantive success" in addition to being the first in a series of activities leading up to the August 5-6, 2014 US-Africa Heads of State Summit.
The Summit, called by President Barrack Obama, will be the first time that any U.S. President is hosting such an event, although the 2000 AGOA legislation actually called for such a Summit.
The Africa Forum is being hailed as "unique" and a "positive step in the right direction," not only because it headlined African Ambassadors to the U.S. who provided their recommendations on the Forum topics of Africa Trade, developmental areas such as power, agriculture, and governance. Of special note, the Forum focused on new areas for dialogue which generally get left out of donor discussions such as how Africans see their governments underscored in Gallup's "Well Being Index," presented by its World Poll Managing Director Jon Clifton, and the need for more financial inclusion projects for the Continent's burgeoning youth population which was highlighted by Ms. Roscoe of Operation HOPE.
FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative CEO Ambassador Robin Sanders emphasized that "the median age for the region was 15-19 years of age for the next 5-7 decades, and that this was important to keep in mind for development, financial inclusion, and entrepreneurship as the Continent is on track to reach 2.4 billion people by 2040."
The Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa President Bernadette Paolo noted in her opening remarks that "the Forum's goal was to have an African perspective, as well as an American one, on key issues for the US-Africa Leaders' Summit. The idea is to have a constructive and inclusive dialogue."
Other key comments came from Africa Export-Import Bank Chairman and President Jean-Louis Ekra, United States Trade Representative Florie Liser, African Center for Strategic Studies Academic Dean Dr. Raymond Gilpin, and Small Business Administration's (SBA) Ngozi Bell. Ekra highlighted "the need for Africa trade diversification and movement from one commodity nations both internally, regionally and for the export market, including consideration of a Marshall Plan-like idea to address infrastructure."
Ms. Liser echoed the same on commodity diversification, but also said that the "US wants to continue to build and expand its trade relationship with Africa, and noted the importance of the upcoming AGOA reauthorization process." On governance, Dr. Gilpin made the key point of "connecting politics and economic policies when focusing on African governance issues."
SBA's Ngozi Bell provided the audience with prime go-to tools for small and medium size businesses interested in Africa, noting that "it's SMES that drive all world economies, noting the U.S. example of 28.2 million SMEs." She also stressed that helping U.S. SMEs interested in business in Africa will also help spur development on the Continent."
The African Ambassadors to the U.S. who were panelists at the event were the Honorable (Excellencies) Faida Mitifu of Democratic Republic of the Congo; Dr. Tebelelo Seretse of Botswana; Liberata Rutageruka Mulamula of Tanzania, Cheikh Niang of Senegal; and, Adebowale Adefuye of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who opened the event stating that everyone will know that "Africa is in town [in the house] when the Summit begins."