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For anyone looking to network with the best and brightest of the young African diaspora in DC, the Young African professional networking evenings on the last Friday of every month are a must attend.  I’ve only been to a handful and they’ve all had a definite bias toward west Africa.  I’m not the strongest networker, so I usually get the most out of the talk by the invited speaker.  Tonight’s event featured very candid remarks by the Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of South Sudan and accordingly, it seemed to have attracted a crowd with a larger than usual east African representation.

The speaker’s remarks mostly provided a historical overview of South Sudan’s trajectory to independence since 1955.  A handful of impressively candid remarks were made during the trajectory of the predominantly routine historical overview.  Several comments were made that explicitly identified the philosophical beliefs of Islam as a reason for the incompatibility of the Sudanese and South Sudanese.  Towards the end of the talk, Sudan was referred to as a ‘hostile’ neighbor and the West was urged to place ‘pressure’ on China to shift away from the unconditional support of Sudan.

Several good questions were asked, and the Q & A period saw the Deputy Chief of Mission acknowledge governance shortcomings in the field of human rights and corruption.  Nonetheless, these were chalked up as the result of human foibles that were at odds with the institutional policies of the government.  The South Sudan pound was feted as the strongest currency in east Africa and the Deputy Head urged west Africans in the audience, who he claimed were good at saving money, to open businesses in the country as South Sudanese were bad at saving.  One question concerned the wisdom of the decision to temporarily halt oil exports via Sudan, given that the act had significant economic consequences; the speaker stressed that the ability to control resources was a prime aim of the struggle for independence and that the decision was absolutely valid.  Education was stressed as a massive need, particularly the need to replace English with Arabic.

In regards to valued foreign partners, the Deputy Head praised the European Union, South Africa (I remember being struck by the size of the South Sudan office when in Pretoria on the eve South Sudan’s independence), Kenya, and Uganda in particular.

The YAP events draw an overwhelmingly African crowd (that leans heavily Nigerian). As far as I know, all the events are held in bars in either U street or Dupont Circle. They typically do not focus so overtly on politics and governance, but are more lifestyle and entertainment oriented.  My favorite YAP event to date featured the dynamic Nigerian/Sierra Leonean/British writer, Olufemi Terry.  The last one I attended featured a New York based hip-hop entrepreneur, Claude Grunitzky, of Togolese origin.  Although there, the political connections return, as I suspect that given his surname, he must be related to the 2nd President of Togo.

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