Major Africa Business Summit

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Delegates from all over the world will begin arriving next week in Abuja, Nigeria, for  the seventh biennial Leon H. Sullivan Summit, which brings together global business leaders with counterparts on the continent to promote business and development.

What started in 1991, when a planeload of Americans traveled to the Ivory Coast where the late President Felix Houphet Boigny hosted the first meeting, has grown to the extent that organizers this year expect over 5,000 delegates from more than 40 nations. Several African presidents and top business executives will attend and several major deals are expected to be concluded.

Indeed, the Summit, which originally was launched to bridge the gap between the U.S. and Africa, and also promote cultural exchange and understanding, now draws executives from Asia and Europe as well. In recognition of its importance, the last summit was opened by U.S. President George Bush—both Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell also attended.

Unlike other summits that focus on crises alone, the Sullivan meetings deal with the opportunities in Africa and pushes forward a bold agenda for investment, trade and development, says Hope Masters, President & CEO, of The Sullivan Foundation, which organizes the event. The foundation was founded by her late father, the renowned Dr. Leon Sullivan, one of the greatest promoters of Africa in history.

Even at the inaugural event years ago, Masters knew the foundation was embarking on a major mission. “It was a historic and emotional moment,� Masters recalled, in a conversation with The Black Star News, as she prepared to depart for Nigeria. “I felt as if we were at the beginning of something that was going to be impactful and change the relations between Africa and America.�

“We focus on how to bring investment to the continent,� Masters added. “We talk about farming technology, banking, and farmers in agribusiness.� While Abuja may be the host city, Masters emphasized that the summit itself is larger than the venue: “It’s important to recognize that it is not a Nigeria summit, it is an Africa summit being held in Nigeria. It is a continent-wide summit which happens to be in Nigeria.�

This years’ theme is “Africa:  A Continent of Opportunities - Building Partnerships.â€? The meetings occur from July 17-July 20 in the Nigerian federal capital. Presidents from 15 African nations are expected at the Summit, including Africa’s first elected female leader, Liberia’s Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. 

Other top officials attending the Summit include Peter Robertson, Vice Chairman Chevron; Witney Schneidman, Director, Global Sullivan Principles; Ambassador Andrew Young, the Summit co-Chairman; Dr. Eliott Battle, Founder Cultura Medspa; and, Ralph Perkins, Senior Vice President, Programs Leon H. Sullivan Summit.

Corporate social responsibility is also high on the agenda, Masters explained. “Gone are the days when companies can just come and take advantage of the people. We want them to pay African people and African leaders the going rate,� Masters said. In addition to networking meetings, there will also be several workshops on conducting business in Africa. “For anyone who is really interested doing business and development on the continent,� Masters added, “the summit is the place to be in July.�

The Sullivan Summit has tremendously raised the consciousness of the world about the importance of Africa in the global economy, particularly in an era where crises in other parts of the world has focused attention on the continent as a major supplier of fuel and energy to the world’s economies.

Other developments in recent years resulting from past summits include a  $5 million grant from the U.S. government for the Teachers for Africa Program and a $5 million contribution from Chevron for the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation endowment. Additional benefits arising from the meetings: 1 million books have been shipped to Nigeria in partnership with the Books for Africa program and a pilot project in Nigeria to build 100 new housing units launched. Other projects in the works are a signed Memorandum of Understanding between the Sullivan Foundation and Med Help to replicate open heart and other surgical procedures throughout Africa; The Best and Brightest Bankers Program which trained 250 African bankers, and The SOS (Support of sub-Saharan Africa) Campaign, which has shipped more than $30 million dollars worth of donated educational, medical and technical supplies to sub-Saharan Africa.  

The week-long series of workshops at the Summit will cover agriculture and health, education, energy,  trade and investment. Summit Co-host, Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo, in addition to Johnson-Sireleaf, will be joined by the following leaders: Fauer Gnassingbe President, Togo; Boni Yayi, President, Benin; Portia Simpson Miller,
Prime Minister, Jamaica; Blaise Compaore, President, Burkina Faso; Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, President, Sierra Leone; Yahya AJJ Jammeh, President, Gambia; Momadou Tandja, President, Niger; Fradique de Menezes, President, Sao Tome & Principe; Patrick Manning, Prime Minister, Trinidad and Tobago; Jakaya Kikwete, President, Tanzania;    
Col Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, President, Mauritania; Albert Kawana, Min. of Presidential Affairs, Namibia; and, Paul Kagame, President, Rwanda.

Corporate Leaders at the Summit will include Dr. Edmund Daukoru, Chairman OPEC; Peter Robertson, Chevron Vice Chairman; Khaya Nggula, President and CEO, South African Airways; Rod Gillum, Vice President, General Motors; Jean Paul Gillet, General Manager, Abidjan Stock Exchange; Ngozi Edozien, Managing Director, Nigeria Pfizer; Bayo Ogunlesi, Executive Vice Chairman, Credit Suisse; Robert Binns, Chief Marketing Officer, North American Airlines; Courtland Burton, President  & CEO, EDS Middle East & Africa; and Suleiman Al-Herbish, Director-General, OPEC Fund for International Development.

Sponsors of the event, who will also have their executives at the Summit include Chevron, GM, Coca Cola, Shell Proctor & Gamble, Exxon Mobile, Good Works International, Micro Soft, Motorolla, Hersheys, DaimlerChyrysler, Sea Petroleum and Gas; and Sunoco.

In addition to Cote d’Ivore, previous host nations have been Gabon, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Nigeria.

For more information please visit or contact Alicia Ingram, Noelle-Elaine Media at (404) 493-1724.

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