Coca-Cola Co. has operations all over Africa. The Atlanta-based beverage giant's World Cup advertisements were plastered throughout Johannesburg before the tournament.

At a Nigerian conference held in Atlanta in April, the country’s top trade official lamented the fact that the U.S. lags China in investment in the oil-rich nation.

Later in the year, not much had changed. Leaders from Nigeria’s investment promotion agency said at a November conference that aside from energy companies, few American firms were tapping into the opportunities offered by Africa’s third largest economy.

For Atlanta, what mattered wasn’t the lack of progress on Nigerian investment, but the fact that the country’s government consistently chose the city as the venue for discussing the issue.

For Nigeria, Atlanta’s draw has a lot to do with Delta Air Lines Inc., the only carrier to fly nonstop from the U.S. to the continent. With a route from Atlanta to Lagos, Nigeria’s economic center, it was easy for businesspeople and government leaders to make the trip, conference organizers told GlobalAtlanta.

Some have called Atlanta a gateway to Africa, and Delta’s expanding route map on the continent helped justify that moniker in 2010.

Every month seemed to bring a new Africa milestone. In March, the West African nation of Senegal moved its North American tourism office from New York to Atlanta to take advantage of a new nonstop flight from here to Dakar, the country’s capital. The flight later moved back to New York, but the office stayed, and it paid off: In January, Delta will restart the Dakar route from Atlanta as the sole stopover on a flight destined for Luanda, Angola.

GlobalAtlanta traveled to Senegal in June to report on the country’s efforts to use tourism as an economic development tool.

This summer Delta also launched flights from Atlanta to Monrovia, Liberia, and Accra, Ghana, and temporarily added second nonstop flight to Johannesburg during the World Cup in South Africa in June and July.

The soccer tournament, one of the world’s largest sporting events, was seen as a coming-out party for Africa’s largest economy and a significant step on the continent’s march to modernity.

GlobalAtlanta headed to South Africa in March to observe preparations for the event and opportunities for U.S. investors.

We had no trouble finding Atlanta connections, from Morehouse College alumni to the ubiquitous Coca-Cola logos on school signs and World Cup billboards.

The civil rights connection between Atlanta and South Africa was also evident. Now a museum, the Soweto home of Nelson Mandela contained honorary degrees conferred on the former president and anti-apartheid activist by historically black institutions in Atlanta, including Clark Atlanta University and The Interdenominational Theological Center.

South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool, himself an activist against apartheid, was one of many African envoys to visit Atlanta this year. He came during a State Department tour that brought nearly 30 ambassadors to the city in October. Senegal, Lesotho, Tanzania and other African countries were also represented.

Separately, organizations in Atlanta hosted ambassadors from Kenya and Morocco.

In mid-December, Delta passed the 2 million mark for passengers on its Africa flights, despite the fact that an Atlanta-Nairobi, Kenya, flight postponed for security reasons in 2009 never launched.

Selected Africa stories from 2010:

Is Now the Time to Invest in Nigeria?

U.S. Policy Should Spur Private Investment in Africa

Senegal Moves Tourism Office to Atlanta

Senegal Supports Atlanta’s Goal to Be ‘Gateway to Africa’

Delta Reaches 2 Million Passengers in Africa

South Africa/World Cup Special Report

Delta Plans Flights from Atlanta to Senegal, Angola

South Africa: Tolerance Paved the Way for Prosperity

Ambassador: Kenya’s Political Rebirth to Aid Economic Growth

Visit our Africa continent page for the most up-to-date news.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...