Forming a link with Africa

After spending the day focusing on the issues plaguing Africa, delegates at the international convention on Prospects for a Horn of Africa Confederation ended Thursday’s workshops with a business forum that presented ideas for solving the problems on the continent.

“We must learn from our past and present experiences and mold our future. The potential is not as bleak as it appears today,” said Kenneth Kaunda, former president of the Republic of Zambia.

In her address at last night’s business forum, USF President Judy Genshaft said when instability, poverty and cultural upheaval occur in a country, it becomes “breeding ground for terrorism.”

“We need to study the root causes for conflict, poverty and underdevelopment and prepare preventive methods,” Genshaft said.

One goal of the conference is to develop a trade agreement between Eastern Africa and Florida.

“We must establish a long-term, meaningful and successful trade agreement,” said Bryant Slater of Enterprise Florida.

In 2000, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act helped to support African businesses by allowing them to sell products to the United States.

Slater said Florida is in a prime position to help and do business with Africa. However, he said America must first build a network between the state and Africa. With that network, trust will be built, which, he said, is essential for any trade arrangement.

Sam Smoots of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation also presented ideas for ways that his organization could aid Africa.

“One problem Africa needs to overcome is having confidence in itself,” Smoots said. “Not many people realize how much wealth Africa has.”

OPIC offers loans and political risk insurance to rebuilding and developing countries, and they already are investing $1 billion in Africa. They granted $450,000 to Ethiopia for diagnostic testing that will help doctors to accurately diagnose blood-borne diseases, such as HIV and AIDS.

“HIV and AIDS impacts the labor force because of the death toll on the working age group” Smoots said.

Tegegnework Gettu, a member of the United Nations Development Program, said the program would focus on conflict resolution and give technical assistance and training to the African countries.

Brian Chigawa spoke about his organization, Comesa,and what it could do for Africa. He said the program tries to aid the economic freedom of people so the region experiences development.

“One of the objectives is to create an economic community with high standards of living for its people,” Chigawa said .

Chigawa said he was disappointed by people who label Africa as the helpless continent, as one magazine did.

“The people of Africa have taken destiny into their own hands, and something is happening there,” Chigawa said.

Kaunda said that as Africa begins to develop, the rest of the world would benefit because the world’s economies are linked. But, Chigawa said, stability in the region must be reached before economic development can take place.

The Horn of Africa Confederation hopes to help the land reach economic stability and then establish trade between the countries and Florida. From there, trade would spread to the rest of America.

The speakers agreed that research universities, such as USF, could explore conflict resolution and ways to reach economic stability. This would help the development of Africa. Fassil Gabremariam, president of the U.S. Africa Foundation, said these universities can develop models for how to deal with these situations in the future.

The international convention continues tomorrow, and the day will begin with the presentation of preliminary draft reports. After that, workshops will be held concerning political and social issues, economic issues and health issues. Students are allowed to attend the workshops for free.

“Students can benefit from hearing about the issues being discussed here because they can help with the solutions,” said Braulio Colon, a member of the Institute for Black Life.