No. 81: There’s Not Enough Space in This Room for Both God and Fear

Be sure to subscribe to David D.’s The Freedom Ring. He’s calling up sung and unsung players in the Civil Rights movement and documenting their stories. His first conversation was with his dad, David Dennis, Sr. Amazing stories about how he got his start in the movement, people he met along the way, and some really interesting encounters. This is just golden stuff. The title came from a statement Mr. Dennis shared from a debate about whether the Freedom Rides should continue.

Things that stood out from the conversation:

1. The role his Nigerian classmate played in getting him involved in the movement. There is so much importance in Africans and African-Americans connecting and sharing stories and experiences;

2. The importance of women to the movement. For example, two women were pivotal in pushing for the Freedom Rides to continue. If you have a black woman involved in your life, tell her thank you for all she does. If you don’t, find one and tell her thank you; and

3. The bravery of students my youngest brother’s age. I was a punk in college and didn’t step up to the plate in some important conversations on race led by students like David D. at Davidson. Imagine stepping on a bus with certainty that you probably weren’t going to be alive at the end of the trip. Incredible.

No. 32: Reflections from NYU Africa Economic Forum

“I don’t feel pressure from being the President of the Toronto Raptors. I feel pressure from Africa.”  The energy that entered the room when Masai Ujiri said that at yesterday’s NYU Africa Economic Forum is why I am still awake.

Masai went on to say that his work would be a waste if he didn’t have any impact in Africa to show for being NBA Executive of the Year or potentially winning an NBA championship. Boom!

Masai’s speech was the highlight of the NYU Africa Economic Forum, though three ideas from other speakers really got my brain going and I may dive deeper on them later this week.

Makhtar Diop, World Bank VP for Africa, explained how pursuing a credit rating for Senegal while he was Minister of Finance provided investors data they could understand, subsequently increasing their level of interest in placing capital in the country. 

Ken Ofori Attah, retired CEO of Databank, stressed the importance of Diasporans marketing Africa well. 

Eric Guichard, CEO of Gravitas Capital and Homestrings, highlighted the opportunity for the structuring of projects to satiate the perceived lack of capital and projects from the perspectives of companies and investors, respectively. 

Kudos to the NYU Africa Economic Forum team for keeping me up way past my bedtime!

What else? What ideas struck you at the NYU Africa Economic Forum?

No. 24: Social Media a Key Driver of the Next Wave of African Growth

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But I won’t argue the point too hard.

Yesterday evening, I attended the DC Africa Tweet up hosted by Semhar Araia. I learned about the event through Twitter and had a blast chatting it up with folks addressing the task of contributing to African development from different angles.

Of the ~60 or so people at the event, I met three through Twitter – Laura Seay, Semhar Araia, and Teddy Ruge. The statistical analysis may not make much of that, but these are three people who have a significant impact on my thinking in regards to Africa. Since joining Twitter, my connection to people doing work on the continent has grown exponentially, and has created opportunities to do a lot of cool things. There are other potential reasons for this increased connection, I do admit. Nonetheless, I am in constant communication with folks regarding Africa and I am not the only one.

In the span of a few hours, the following happened:

1. I got a better understanding of how Africare sees itself participating in African development.

2. I offered some advice to a recent graduate looking to get into international development work.

3. I connected with individuals interested in a partnership Afara Global is part of.

4. I learned about the work of an individual in London who could offer some nice value-add to one of our projects.

5. I had an incredible conversation with a fellow Greensboro-native on the opportunity areas for growth in the African-American community.

Needless to say, I left the event refreshed and excited to push forward.

Thanks Semhar and Twitter. Let’s make this happen in other cities.

No. 18: Not a Protectionist, But David Cameron’s Interest in Africa Makes Me Nervous

While reading an article on David Cameron’s visit to Africa, I just couldn’t help but see an image of British ships exploring the new world, landing on the African continent and thinking – “we’ve got free labor”.

Source: Slavery in America

The author follows Prime Minister Cameron on his trip to South Africa and Nigeria, highlighted by the fact that the Prime Minister brought with him the heads of several heavy hitters already doing business on the African continent – Vodacom, Barclays, and Diageo to name a few. Mr. Cameron’s theme throughout the trip was that Britain sees Africa in a new light – a trading partner, not just an aid recipient. Business leaders touted the economic opportunities on the continent, and expressed their wishlists of improved regulations to enable business to thrive.

The African continent’s countries are really making moves in growing their economies and improving governance. Those improvements are drawing increasing attention from Asia and the West, and it is increasingly important that African countries protect their interests. My recent trip to Uganda revealed the downside of China’s investment on the continent – socks that had holes after a week of wear. Again, it is increasingly important that African countries protect their interests.

Source: The Economist

Those of us in the Diaspora have an incredible opportunity to seize in serving our countries. Tons of us have studied the way the Asian, European, and American players work the markets, run governments, etc. We can work with Africans on the continent in serving as gatekeepers to ensure that non-African penetration of African countries is healthy.

Source: Marvel Comics

I look forward to working with you in some fashion. I’m sitting here with goosebumps as I watch childhood daydreams morph into reality.