<p>Raila Odinga expressed his disappointment in policies of the African Union during an April speech in Atlanta.&nbsp;</p>

Courtesy: World Affairs Council of Atlanta

Raila Odinga expressed his disappointment in policies of the African Union during an April speech in Atlanta. 


African leaders had their eyes on Atlanta in 2012, and the trend is only set to continue in the new year. 

While it has been happening for years, when the Zambian commerce minister visits Gwinnett CountyBotswana's ambassador holds an investment forum in Midtown and the prime minister of Kenya and vice president of Liberia make separate trips to Atlanta, it's safe to call it a banner year. 

As with many of the city's attributes, Atlanta gained its status as an African business gateway without central planning. It has developed naturally as companies like Coca-Cola Co. and Delta Air Lines Inc., institutions like CARE and schools like Spelman College and Emory University developed work on the continent. 

Not that their hasn't been some prodding from the top. U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson sang the praises of Africa on multiple occasions in 2012, while U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in December urged local business leaders not to forget Africa

But this year should bring a measure of cohesion to disparate grassroots efforts to engage the continent, thanks to an initiative the Georgia Institute of Technology's Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts is planning for 2014. 

Africa Atlanta 2014 will provide a framework for metro Atlanta to come together to explore connections linking Europe, Africa and Atlanta.

Georgia Tech will host a film series, cultural performances and academic lectures, all anchored by an exhibition of art works from Belgium's Royal Museum of Central Africa at the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum. Organizations around town are invited to host partner events along the same theme. 

Whether Atlanta will fully capitalize on its unique position remains to be seen, but Global Atlanta will be there to cover the ups and downs in 2013, launching new country-focused pages for South Africa and Kenya along the way. 

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Fifty Mandela Fellows, who will be participating in programs at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University and the School of Business at Clark Atlanta University, will be hosted by the city of Atlanta and its Office of Film and Entertainment at a welcome reception Tuesday evening where they will learn of the city's growth as a center for the film industry. More