Last week I attended a very nice reception hosted by two of my friends, Rosa Whitaker and Bernadette Paolo. Rosa is CEO and President of the Whitaker Group, a Washington, D.C.- based consultancy specializing in trade and investment in Africa. She previously served as the first Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa in the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. In 2010, Whitaker was named one of Foreign Policy’s Top Global Thinkers.
At the event promoted as “Reception, Tribute and Discussion for East Africa’s Four New Female Ambassadors to the U.S.” The ambassadors honored were Mathilde Mukantabana of Rwanda, Liberata Mulamula of Tanzania, Oliver Wonekha of Uganda, and Jean Kamau of Kenya.
For those who are not followers of Africa, it’s important to remember that the continent of Africa is extremely patriarchal. Women are barely beginning to be welcomed into decision making positions in government, business, and politics, etc. In many African countries, women’s roles in society are clearly defined, with most of their roles being relegated to motherhood and the raising of the children.
Therefore, I want to use this column, to speak directly to these four distinguished ambassadors:
I have spoken to many of your male predecessors about the role of an ambassador in a foreign country. The main objective of an ambassador is to be the voice and the face of their home country’s foreign policy towards the U.S.
Madam Ambassadors, each of you stated that you wanted Americans, especially Blacks, to invest in your respective countries. Why should we? What is the business case for such an investment? Most African ambassadors have little engagement with the Black community, especially the businessman. People all over the world tend to do business with people they know.
There are Black businessmen who have created and run multi-billion dollar companies and have never had an African ambassador come to meet with them. Businessmen are not just going to magically show up in your country and want to invest millions of dollars in your country and you have never found the need to establish a relationship with these successful businessmen.
Madame Ambassadors, why is it that your presidents refuse to meet with these successful Black entrepreneurs when they are in the U.S.?
These same presidents would miss their own mother’s funeral to meet with Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, or Mark Zuckerberg, but when it comes to meeting the Black owner of a $6 billion IT firm, they can’t find time.
Madame Ambassadors, how many of you know that there are more than 200 Black newspapers in the U.S.? When you are allocating money to promote tourism to your country, why do you never consider partnering with these Black media outlets? Do you think Blacks can’t afford to travel or have no discretionary income?
Madame Ambassadors, how many of you have made yourself available to be interviewed by those who own Black newspapers, magazines, or websites? Do you not believe that Blacks read or care about the motherland?
Before there can be an investment of money; there first has to be an investment of time.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm.