Against the back drop of a string of negative narratives out of the U.S. about Africa – President Trump’s “s-hole countries” comment; restrictive immigration policies that disproportionately impact the Continent and the conspicuous absence of Ambassadors in US Embassies across Africa, last Friday, Africa was celebrated in Washington, DC.
American Democratic and Republican Congressional and policy leaders– business, civil society influencers and the press joined African delegations at a gala dinner “A Celebration of Africa: Continent of Unlimited Possibilities” on Friday, 2 March. The occasion marked the 15th anniversary of the Whitaker Group, the company Rosa Whitaker founded after serving Presidents William J. Clinton and George W. Bush as the first Assistant US Trade Representative appointed specifically to advance commercial relations with Africa. Also present was USAID Administrator Ambassador Mark Green, a long-standing advocate of Africa.
During the affair, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was given an Exemplary Leadership award by eight of the top US business and advocacy organizations working on Africa: Africare; The Africa Society; AllAfrica.com; The Constituency for Africa;The Corporate Council on Africa; Invest Africa USA; The U.S. Chamber of Commerce U.S.and the Whitaker Group for his transformative achievements.
Throughout the evening American leaders lauded the rebounding of the Ghanaian economy projected to be the fastest growing one in the world next year–rising from 3.6% last year when President Akufo-Addo came into office to 7.9% today. President Akufo-Addo was also applauded by the diverse cross-section of Americans presentfor his provision of free senior high school for all Ghanaians.
U.S. Congressmember Karen Bass, a leader on African issues in the American legislature presented President Akufo-Addo with a Congressional Commendation.
Edward Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee was the second honouree of the evening.Royce is credited with building a rare bipartisan consensus on Africa, spearheading AGOA, the PEPFAR program to combat AIDS, the US Millennium Challenge Account, debt relief for Africa and efforts to end trade in African ivory and rhino horn.
The evening opened with a media production showcasing Africa’s achievements in innovation, economic growth, resource mobilisation and projected dividends from its youthful demographic around the Uganda’sWatoto Children’s Choir celebratory song “Beautiful Africa”. Master and Mistress of Ceremonies for the evening were veteran journalist and Award-winning host of Voice of America’s Africa 54 TV Show Kenyan born Mr. Vincent Makori and Ghanaian Nicole Amarteifio—one of Africa’s top creators and producer the awarding show “An African City”.
Congratulatory tributes to The Whitaker Grouppoured in from friends and supporters attending the gala and from thoseafar.
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, congratulated “my good friend Rosa Whitaker” noting that
“her love of Ghana, of Africa and her peoples showed through everything she did.”
Chairman Royce recalled the pivotal role Whitaker played in drafting AGOA opining that she continued to “walk the walk” when she left government t found her own firmorganising significant investments into Africa.
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, whom Whitaker described as a cherished mentor wrote: “Rosa is among the ten most devoted Africans of all time to the cause of the Black man’s emancipation. She is comparable to (Tanzania’s Julius) Nyerere and (South Africa’s Nelson) Mandela.”
TidjaneThiam, CEO of Credit Suisse also feted Whitaker: “You are an inspiration for every young Black woman, and beyond colour, to every woman on the planet — and that’s a lot of people.”
Retired Congressman Charles Rangel, hailed Whitaker as a “stalwart partner” promoting and nurturing business between America and Mother Africa.”
In a stirring address that capped the evening, President Akufo- Addo spoke of his determination to “build a Ghana beyond aid”.
“The 21st century is going to be our time. We are going to realise our unlimited possibilities and establish conclusively our greatness. That is my deep-seated, unalterable belief.”
Rosa Whitaker, Founder of Whitaker Group addressing guests at the gala in Washington DC.
By Jackson Oboth