AAI’s African Diplomatic Orientation & Engagement Program, held in partnership with CAP, brings together key stakeholders in Washington,D.C. to discuss important issues and strengthen relations between Africa and the United States.

Image by Austin J. Cooper

Recently, approximately seventy-five Members of the African Diplomatic Corps, African Embassy representatives, Biden-Harris Administration officials, and representatives of the African Diaspora, Washington think tanks and international and domestic media organizations convened for AAI’s African Diplomatic Orientation & Engagement Program. 

The program, held in partnership with the Center for American Progress (CAP), was hosted at CAP’s Headquarters in Washington, D.C.  

Created by AAI in the Spring of 2019 and endorsed by the African Diplomatic Corps here in Washington, D.C., the African Diplomatic Orientation & Engagement Program is designed to equip new and current Ambassadors with the tools to secure their ongoing success. The unique Program convenes African Ambassadors in a conducive environment where they can learn from each other and sectoral experts on maximizing their impact as international representatives to the United States.

Kofi Appenteng, President of AAI, and Her Excellency Hilda Suka-Mafudze, the African Union’s Ambassador to the United States, offered opening remarks. 

Reflecting on the gathering afterward, Ambassador Suka-Mafudze stated: “I commend AAI for creating the African Diplomatic Orientation & Engagement Program. It is an important and necessary tool that strengthens my efforts to promote the African Union here in Washington and across the United States.” 

After welcome remarks, the “off the record” Program consisted of four-panel discussions with listed panelists and moderators:

  1. U.S. Investments Across Africa

Moderator: James Mwangi, Founder, Climate Action Platform Africa

Panelists: Hon. Reta Jo Lewis, President & Chair, Export-Import Bank; Leila Ndiaye, President & CEO, LND Global Network, LLC; and Dr. Witney Schneidman, Esq., President, Schneidman Associates

  1. Africa in the Western Media

Moderator: Denise Rolark Barnes, Publisher, The Washington Informer

Panelists: Afua Osei, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Foreign Policy; and Abderrahim Foukara, Washington D.C. Bureau Chief, Al Jazeera

  1. Sustaining the Momentum of the U.S. -Africa Leaders’ Summit: Where Are We?

Moderator: Prof. Landry Signé, Senior Fellow, Africa Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution

Panelists: Dr. Monde Muyangwa, Assistant Administrator, Africa Bureau, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); and Hon. Johnnie Carson, Senior Advisor, Africa Center, U.S, Institute for Peace (USIP)

  1. The Role of the African Diaspora: Promoting Connections & Collaborations

Moderator: Anne Griffin, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress (CAP)

Panelists: Almaz Negash, Founder & Executive Director of African Diaspora Network; Samah Salman, President of U.S.-Educated Sudanese Association (USESA); Oge Onubogu, Director of Africa Program, The Wilson Center; and Ezrah Aharone, Founding Executive Director, The Center for Global Africa

Each forty-five-minute panel was followed by 15 minutes of questions and answers from African Diplomats in attendance. After the Program, a reception followed.

Hon. Patrick H. Gaspard, President and CEO of CAP and the former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa offered closing remarks under President Barack H. Obama. 

An article that appeared in Politico (https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2024/05/16/african-diplomats-washington-column-00158231) on May 16, African Countries Are Failing to Make a Dent in Washington’s Diplomatic Scene, in timely fashion, furthered the importance of the Program, according to the article, “African diplomats say they’d like to be more prominent in the U.S. capital, but that, above all, they lack the resources.”

Several African Ambassadors have offered favorable comments on the May 21 gathering.

Stated H.E. Robie Kakonge, the Republic of Uganda’s Ambassador to the USA, “I thank AAI’s leadership for providing this excellent opportunity to engage diplomatically. It was of great value for African diplomats to gain insights from the panel discussions and how Africa is perceived in the Western Media and why.”

“This was my first African Diplomatic Orientation & Engagement Program. However, I hope it is not my last. I am already looking forward to the next AAI convening of African Ambassadors and discussions  of the important challenges confronting our continent,” said H.E. Jeff Dowana, the Republic of Liberia’s Ambassador to the USA

In addition, Dr. Witney Schneidman, who participated in the U.S. Investments Across Africa panel, offered

“AAI’s support for the African Diplomatic Corps is critical to deepening commercial ties between the U.S. and African nations. The day-long partnership with the Center for American Progress (CAP) was a model for the partnership we are working to build with our partners on the continent.”

To date, AAI has hosted four gatherings: two in-person and two via Zoom. This is the only group that has brought together Members of the African Diplomatic Corps, as has AAI. Returning to in-person and in partnership with CAP, this year’s African Diplomatic Orientation and Engagement Program provided a tremendous opportunity for engagement and mutual learning among African Diplomats, the Diaspora, and U.S. leadership.  

Preliminary internal discussions for future convenings of AAI’s African Diplomatic Orientation & Engagement Program, including targeted sector-oriented sessions, have begun. In addition, AAI will resume quarterly Conversations on Africa on Capitol Hill this Fall.

For more information on AAI, visit www.aaionline.org.

#AAI #AfricanDiplomacy #WashingtonDC #CAP #DiplomaticEngagement #Partnership

Senior Editor, Digital Manager, Blogger, has been nominated for awards several times as Publisher and Author over the years. Has been with company for almost three years and is a current native St. Louisan.

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