The top elected official in Fulton County is weighing a trip to Nigeria to solidify economic and cultural ties with two states.
John Eaves, chairman of the Fulton County Commission, met with the governor of the West African country’s Benue state Dec. 13, three months after getting acquainted with the Kogi state governor at a Nigerian business summit in Atlanta in August.
Both governors have extended official invitations for Mr. Eaves to visit their states, the chairman told Global Atlanta.
During his meeting with Benue Gov. Gabriel Torwua Suswam and his delegation this week, Mr. Eaves learned that the state is home to three universities and has an interest in improving its road infrastructure, water services and health-care delivery systems.
He is considering making a trip to Nigeria in 2013 to share ideas on those subjects and more, potentially taking a delegation and initiating a community partnership.
“I haven’t made any plans yet, but the invitation certainly is there,” he said.
There could also be business for Atlanta construction companies when the Nigerian states let infrastructure contracts, he said.
Dr. Eaves, a former regional Peace Corps coordinator and Fulbright scholar who has traveled to 50-plus countries, has been intent on linking Fulton County with international communities since taking the chairmanship in 2007.
His approach isn’t formal, but he knows what he wants: partnerships across diverse regions of the world.
“It’s more or less just existing relationships that I have and my knowledge of the international scene, as well as growing emerging economies around the world,” he said, describing how he chooses target countries.
He was attracted to Nigeria, a growing nation of about 160 million people, for its economic dynamism as well as its cultural heritage.
The Benue governor’s visit came two days after the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria spoke in Atlanta on business opportunities in the country and the day after U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk encouraged companies not to forget about Africa during a briefing at the Metro Atlanta Chamber.
Delta Air Lines Inc. recently celebrated five years of nonstop flights to Nigeria, another reason Mr. Eaves is optimistic about business between his county and Nigeria.
The fact that Delta flies to Lagos, Nigeria; Accra, Ghana; Dakar, Senegal and Johannesburg “certainly does make it easier for Fulton County-based companies to get involved in export. You don’t have to go through Europe or other parts of the world to get to Africa,” he said.
Mr. Eaves in June inked a partnership with the Brazilian state of Bahia, which has a growing economy and a shared history of civil rights struggle.
He also runs a Youth Leadership Program that has taken Fulton County students to Brazil, China, Germany, South Africa and Turkey.
Visit www.chairmaneaves.org for more information.