On June 2, at the Museum of African-America Art, a closed event was held in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and coordinated by the L.A. Africana Diaspora Ad Hoc Committee. The purpose of this conversation was to foster new and creative methods for business leaders, community heads, artists, students, and entrepreneurs about the importance of investment and entrepreneurship in Africa.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, as the Assistant Secretary of State of African Affairs, is in constant communication with African governments. As a result of this direct line of communication that she is able to access, she is a huge advocate for increasing awareness of ongoing events in Africa and general relations in the continent. She admitted early in her speech that she loves speaking to young people around the ages of 10-11 and younger, and since those are the elementary school years, she figures that those are the years of people’s lives when they are the most easily influenced by what they see and hear.
Earlier in her life, before she was an Ambassador and the Assistant Secretary of State, Thomas-Greenfield went to Liberia to study foreign relations and foreign policy. She ended up meeting her future husband in the program. He eventually informed her of the possible career path of becoming a Foreign Service officer. Thomas-Greenfield was intrigued by the proposition and took the job. Then as she stated next, “… and the rest is history.”
After much rhetoric, Thomas-Greenfield came out with the endorsement of two major programs related to the field of foreign relations, the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program and the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program. These are two programs that can propel you into the foreign relations/affairs and will pay for your tuition at any 2-year graduate or Masters degree program.
Thomas-Greenfield also noted that she wants to promote increased investments throughout the continent. One of the avenues that she discussed accomplishing this was through the African Business Forum. The basis of this forum is “…to increase the efforts to further African-based entrepreneurship.”
While doubling-back to the subject of Liberia after being asked about inconsistencies in their Constitution, Thomas-Greenfield confirmed that the Liberian Constitution is indeed flawed. “A new constitution that is being considered by the Liberian legislative committees says that they will accept duel-citizenship, but the law also states that you must be of African descent in order to own land. Therefore, since you cannot be a citizen if you cannot own land… dual-citizenship is impossible for most people to obtain,” says Thomas-Greenfield. As a follow up question, I asked her how are potential investors supposed to be able to invigorate the Liberian economy through new investment and foreign involvement if you must be Liberian in order to even invest? Her answer was a clear and concise one; “It simply makes it impossible for people to invest in the country.”
After delving into the subject of the rest of the country, Thomas-Greenfield concluded by noting that Haiti has been invited to join the African Union (AU), but there have been pauses in progress due to political integration. “Egypt is not part of Africa… politically,” says the Ambassador.
“Egypt is not part of the African Bureau, but is a part of the African Union, so the Ambassador consults with them frequently. According to the African Union, Egypt is apparently a part of the southern region of Asia, as far as international political recognition goes.”