This evening I attended the opening network reception for the Ronald Brown African Affairs Series, an annual event hosted by the Constituency for African Affairs in conjunction with the Congressional Black Caucus’ annual Legislative Week.
Melvin Foote, the head of the CFA (I believe he got his start on the continent as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia), gave a short speech, invoking the names of Kwame Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba to solicit donations (there is no charge for the wide range of events going on all week) and mentioned a productive briefing the CFA had with President Obama (or perhaps just his office) earlier in the day.
There was a small room that had tables for several sponsors of the series, including the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa (DTCA). I spoke with one of its representatives for several minutes and he described the Directorate as the Nigerian equivalent of USAID, although it apparently gets funds from the African Development Bank as well. I had not previously known that the Nigerian government had an international development arm funding projects throughout the continent.
I also met the Maryland based founder of an African board game, ‘The Africa Memory Game’. The Cameroonian – American women created the board game in response to her children’s lack of knowledge about Africa. I did not realize it while I was talking to her, but I had seen the game (and even posted a picture of it) at Sunday’s Ethiopian Festival.
Several people had come from out of town. I even met a recent graduate of The Ohio State University who follows me on Twitter (Awesome!). From further afield was an American working at Tubman University in southeastern Liberia, one of several foreigners at the institution that has recently raised the ire of nationalistic Liberians.
A few consulting firms were also represented, including GoodWorks International, which is working with the highly respected Princeton political scientist Leonard Wantchekon to establish a university in his home country of Benin by 2014.
I may not be able to get to any of the Series’ events until Friday, but I hope to hear from those of you who do.