Atlanta City Council recognized on June 4 the importance of building business relationships between Africa and Atlanta during a ceremony on the steps of the Georgia Capitol that drew more than 40 local officials and supporters.

As part of the fifth annual Africa Day celebration, sponsored by the Africa Heritage Foundation, the council offered a proclamation signed by all its members praising the efforts of the foundation and acknowledging future opportunities on the continent.

Under the leadership of chairman and CEO, Tunde Adetunji, the foundation organizes the celebration every year to inform people on business opportunities in Africa.

This year, Cedric Suzman, executive vice president of the World Affairs Council of Atlanta; Betty Siegel, former president of Kennesaw State University and Cynthia Nash, honorary consul general of Liberia, showed their support and spoke at the event.

State Sen. Donzella James of College Park also brought forth a state Senate resolution recognizing the need for the exchange of research, technology, information and culture between Georgia and Africa.

Speaking to the crowd, Ms. James said that she would introduce the resolution in the next session of the General Assembly and that Georgia is poised to be a gateway between the U.S. and Africa with the logistics hubs, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the Port of Savannah.

She also acknowledged the efforts of Atlanta-based companies such as the Coca-Cola Co. and Delta Air Lines Inc to expand into the continent.

Delta has a number of direct flights into Africa and Coca-Cola established its first bottling plant in Johannesburg in 1928.

While large companies have made inroads into Africa, small to medium size companies in the U.S. are lagging the rest of the world, said Ms. Nash.

After the celebration, Ms. Nash told GlobalAtlanta in a phone interview that Indian and Chinese companies were moving into Africa and that U.S. companies should be increasing their exports to the continent before they lose out on opportunities there..

“The economy is very slow in America and we could be looking at the exports of items like chickens and eggs and other commodities out of the state of Georgia,” said Ms. Nash.

Dr. Suzman, who is originally from South Africa, agreed that the U.S. was falling behind in terms of investment in Africa.

“China and now India are taking advantage of Africa’s growth opportunities and its raw materials. The United States needs to wake up and join the game before it’s left behind,” he said.

Dr. Suzman told GlobalAtlanta that Wal-mart Stores Inc. is a good example of a U.S. company taking advantage of the 100 million people living in southern Africa.

In May, the South African government cleared a deal for Wal-mart to buy Massmart, a retailer in the country. Dr. Suzman added that this acquisition would provide Wal-mart with a jumping off point to the rest of the continent.

He added that Georgia State University with which the World Affairs Council is affiliated has developed numerous ties with Africa, especially through its Andrew Young School of Policy Studies and the Robinson College of Business,

The Robinson College has an established program to train entrepreneurs at its Ron Brown Institute that is affiliated with the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

Africa is not an easy place to do business, according to rankings by the World Bank. Data shows that many African countries have a low rank in terms of the ease of starting a business, getting credit and other factors.

In 2010, South Africa had one of the highest rankings on the continent placing 32 out of 183 economies. Liberia’s ranking was 152, while the oil rich Nigeria was 134.

Both Dr. Suzman and Ms. Nash acknowledged the potential for tourism in Africa.

At the celebration, Dr. Suzman said that Atlanta stands to be “gateway for trade and tourism” into Africa with flights through Delta to Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa; Accra, Ghana; Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria; Monrovia, Liberia and Dakar, Senegal.

Ms. Nash is working to establish Liberia as a tourist destination for Georgians. She is currently working to develop heritage tours in Liberia, where African Americans can explore their past and gain a connection to their ancestry.

As part of this program, Susan Taylor, who lives in Liberia and is the former editor of Essence magazine, has agreed to host a heritage tour in 2012.

Kennesaw State University is also looking to develop connections between Atlanta and Africa, particularly between universities, said Dr. Siegel, former president of the university.

In 2008, she helped organize a symposium on ethical leadership at Stellenbosch University just outside Cape Town. The event brought academics from around South Africa to the university to discuss the role of education in ethics.

Desmond Tutu, an anti-apartheid activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, spoke at the symposium.

Dr. Siegel sees the potential for this type of international event here in Atlanta.She hopes to build on the connections between Atlanta and Africa and bring business people, academics, government officials and nonprofit leaders to Atlanta.

She added that Atlanta has a lot of connections to the continent and that the city needs to build off of these connections. “Africa is in a real state of growth, economically, emotionally and intellectually,” said Dr. Siegel.

The Africa Day celebration also received letters of support from the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, the office of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Jean Ping, chairperson of the Commission of the Africa Union.

For more information on the Africa Heritage Foundation, visit

To learn more about the African Union, go to

And for more information on the Liberian consulate visit,