More than 170 attendees came to learn about business opportunities in Africa at the International Economics Forum held in the Decatur offices of the DeKalb County government the evening of Oct. 24.

Organized by the DeKalb Development Authority, Vaughn D. Irons, the authority’s chairman, said that this forum was a kickoff for others that would encourage representatives of local companies to investigate opportunities on the African continent.

The forum began with a keynote address by Nell Diallo, vice president of Medshare International, a national nonprofit organization based in Decatur that recovers surplus medical supplies and equipment from U.S. hospitals and manufacturers and redistributes them to needy hospitals in developing countries.

Ms. Diallo, along with the following panelists, encouraged the attendees to seek out business partnerships in African countries that are experiencing rapid growth. 

Stan Watson, a county commissioner from DeKalb District 7, outlined a wide-ranging agenda providing opportunities for DeKalb residents to engage with a variety of programs in Africa. 

He encouraged the development of cultural exchange programs for the county’s youth so that they would develop friendships in African countries that would provide them with a basis for international careers in the future.

He also cited initiatives to attract consular offices to the county, to develop warehouse space for imported and exported goods, to create nursing training and exchange programs, to transfer technologies, especially those related to the management of city and county water and sewer services.

In addition, he contemplated the development ecotourism programs affiliated with the Fernbank Science Center, which is located in DeKalb.

Citing entrepreneurial activities taking place in the county as well as its diversified population, Sam Cherribi, professor of sociology at Emory University and director of the Emory Development Initiative, said the county was redefining the “New South” by integrating itself with the global economy.

Dele Momoh, consul at the Nigerian Consulate General, and Donald Nay, director of the U.S. Export Assistance Center, provided overviews of how Nigeria and the U.S. strategies are planning to spur African development.

Vuvu Manseka, chairman and co-founder of the African diaspora network at the Coca-Cola Co., reviewed the organization of the network and its increasing relevance as African countries prosper.

Etienne Musonera, a professor of international economics at Mercer Business School, reviewed his native Rwanda’s turnaround since the genocide of the 1990s and described the visits there that he has organized on behalf of Mercer students.

Boye Akinola, president of Boye Architecture Inc., described how he was able to launch his architectural  business in Nigeria following the collapse of the building industry in the U.S. in 2008.

Robert Brunner, vice president of Arik Air, a private Nigerian airline, provided an overview of the airline’s insistence on “safety, security and customer care” in its strategy to create a world-class airline that “would make Nigerians proud.”

Bunmi Jinadu, president and CEO of of Interglobe Entertainment Group LLC, and Ernest Gilchrist, senior business development officer in DeKalb’s Office of Economic Development, served as moderators.

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