From left to right: Ernest Gilchrist, Vaughn Irons and Bunmi Jinadu take in commentaries about Africa appearing in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution April 23 edition by Don Nay, director of the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Atlanta and Dean Jackie Royster of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at Georgia Tech

DeKalb County, under the leadership of its development authority, is developing a strategy for the county to harness all of its assets to increase business, cultural and economic relations with the African continent.

While the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts and the Consulate General of Beligum are spearheading an Africa Atlanta 2014 initiative, Vaughn Irons, the authority’s chairman, told Global Atlanta that DeKalb seeks to keep the momentum going with its “DeKalb Africa 2015 initiative.

“We want to be in the forefront of establishing relations with Africa,” Mr. Irons said. “We don’t want to be trailing others like so many are doing with China.”

DeKalb County leaders unveiled their ambition in October last year with an International Economics Forum that attracted more than 170 attendees including many from the African diaspora communities for which the county is well known.

During the forum, Nell Diallo, vice president of Medshare International, a national nonprofit organization based in Decatur, provided a keynote address underscoring partnership opportunities in rapidly growing African countries.

Ernest Gilchrist, a senior development manager at the authority who is coordinating the program, and Bunmi Jinadu, president of Interglobal Media, who is serving as a liaison for the initiative to the continent, presented a project overview to the it a meeting of its steering committee in April.

The initiative seeks to harness the global reputations of its research institutions such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its many colleges and universities as well as its tourist attractions and city and county services as the foundation for establishing ties with partnerships in Africa.

Trade missions, a business exchange summit, a website and database and visits to African embassies in Washington are on the drawing board.

Meanwhile an extensive steering committee has been pulled together to help in launching the ambitious initiative. Among its members are DeKalb County Commissioners Stan Watson and Sharon Barnes-Sutton;

Dar’shun Kendrick, business attorney and owner of Kendrick Law Practice LLC; Sam Cherribi, professor and director of the Emory Development Initiative, Emory University; Boye Akinola, architect and owner of Boye Architecture LLC;

Olubunmi Jinadu, liaison for the DeKalb Africa Initiative and owner of Interglobe Media LLC; Etienne Musonera, professor, Mercer University; Shahara Ruth, president, Ghana Council of Georgia; Dele Momoh, consul, Nigerian Consulate General;

Thedros Hellegiorgis, director of operations, the Nile Group LLC; Vuvu Manseka, chair and co-founder of the Africa Diaspora Network, Coca-Cola Co.; Rasheedha Shabaazz, environment health specialist, DeKalb County Board of Health; Marlon Somersall, regional private banker, Wells Fargo Bank; Anthony Togbo, assistant deputy director/CSS, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport – Aviation Planning and Development;

Andrew Skehan, COO, Popeyes International Louisiana Kitchen, AFC Enterprises Inc.;  Mekonnen Gessesse, reseach, policy analyst, DeKalb County Planning and Sustainability; Nell Dialo, vice president, MedShare; Maria Balais, executive director, Leadership DeKalb; Bill Dobbs, director, Georgia Allies; Phil Bolton, publisher, Global Atlanta; Jawad Bis-Bis, director of global sports brands, Coca-Cola Co.

Cynthia Dorsey Edwards, vice president of community outreach and engagement, Georgia Piedmont Technical College; James Tsismanakis, president, DeKalb Convention and Visitors Bureau; Doug Stoner, managing director, Development Authority of DeKalb County and Leake Malede, program director, Ethio-American Business Association.

For a Global Atlanta article about the initiative’s kick-off last year, click here.

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