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September 30, 2010

Raynard Jackson

During the past two weeks I have been asked to be involved in two projects relating to Africa. While dealing with Africa can sometimes be very frustrating, after the past two weeks, I am very high on the future of Africa.

Last month I was asked to help put together the first ever Seychelles Investment Forum in New York. The event was held last week and was a great success. The Seychelles is off the east coast of Africa, surrounded by the Indian Ocean (www.seychellesembassy.com).

After the Seychelles event, I then had the opportunity to participate on a panel during the African Policy Forum, hosted by the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation in Atlanta, GA (www.thesullivanfoundation.org).

I have been flying back and forth to the continent for many years, but this immersion in all things Africa has restored my optimism in the future of the continent.

The Seychelles event was an opportunity for American businessmen and media professionals to become acquainted with investment possibilities and to learn more about this quiet, tropical paradise.

The delegation was led by the vice president of the Seychelles, the Honorable Danny Faure. He is simultaneously serving as the minister of finance. Relatively young, he has lots of experience within government. He is extremely personable and has the charm of Bill Clinton. I see him being a “fix-it” man throughout the continent in the future. Remember his name. You will hear it many times in the future.

Other members of the delegation included ministers Peter Sinon (Investments, Natural Resources and Industry), Jean-Paul Adam (Foreign Affairs), and their permanent representative to the United Nations & ambassador to the U.S., the honorable Ronny Jumeau.

Mr. Sinon is a former executive director for the African Development Bank. He is a great strategic thinker and has an enviable rolodex of friends that spans the globe. I hope his president, James Michel, takes full advantage of Mr. Sinon’s great mind and rolodex. I am a political animal at heart, thus had a great time talking global politics with Mr. Adam. He reminds me greatly of our former secretary of state, James A. Baker. He has worked within various levels of the government and is a close personal advisor to the president. Mr. Jumeau is the well seasoned statesman that is very comfortable with change and has the uncanny ability to bridge the gap between the old and the young. He definitely has the skill set to be a great diplomat.

Gregory Simpkins (vice president of the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation and one of the foremost experts on Africa in the entire U.S.) asked me to participate on a panel called “The Media’s Africa May Not Be Your Africa: Exploring Fact and Fiction.” This was part of the Sullivan Foundation’s Africa Policy Forum in Atlanta, GA.

The goal of the foundation is to “bring the corporate and governmental communities together for the economic benefit of all, and invite businesses and individuals to create partnerships with Africa with our ultimate goal being a peaceful, prosperous, and powerful Africa.”

The foundation is led by Ms. Hope Sullivan Masters (daughter of the great Leon Sullivan). She has taken the organization from a dream to reality. She put together one of the most substantive programs on Africa I have ever been a part of.

As I indicated on the panel, African leaders should not expect the American media to accurately portray the totality of all the continent has to offer. Typically the media only show stories that deal with famine, war, or poverty. They never show the great education system of Botswana, the middle class wealth of Nigeria, or the modernity of Ethiopia.

But, I also faulted African heads of state for not building relations with Black media in the U.S. How many African leaders have ever been interviewed by Black newspaper owners, magazines, or blogs?

To my amazement, even former U.N. ambassador Andy Young and former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo agreed with my assessment.

President Obasanjo, now an elder statesman, is a travelling trouble shooter throughout the continent. He is called on by world bodies to mediate various conflicts on behalf of the U.N., the African Union, etc.

I had the opportunity to spend some private time with him in his suite this past weekend. He is a remarkable, walking history of Africa. I hope my good friend Isaiah Washington (former star of Grey’s Anatomy) will one day do a film on the life of president Obasanjo.

I have known Isaiah a few years now and can visibly see the transformation that he has undergone since he began his travels back and forth to the continent. He served as honorary chairman of the African Policy Forum. You can see and feel the spirit of our ancestors speaking through him when he talks about Africa. One of my favorite scriptures from the Bible came to mind when I was listening to him. Ironically enough, it is Isaiah 61:1-2: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our Got; to comfort all that mourn.”

Expect Isaiah to be one of the leading voices on Africa during the next generation.

With young leaders being groomed for the future in the Seychelles; with elder statesmen like President Obasanjo imparting his wisdom to the next generation; and voices like Isaiah Washington conjuring up spirits from our ancestors, you should understand why it is up to all of us to put the can in AfriCan!

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm. He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine (www.excellstyle.com) & U.S. Africa Magazine (www.usafricaonline.com).

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