DOWNTOWN – In the coming weeks, City Aldermanic President Lewis Reed will be in talks with the Ugandan Parliament to help give birth to international trade between Africans and African-Americans.
That was an ideal result of the Reset Africa Reset America third annual conference by the Global Impact Leadership Alliance (GILA), convened at City Hall last week.
Three delegates from Uganda appealed to businessmen, civic/political leaders, educators, media and other professionals to forge favorable relationships with Africa.
That transatlantic ball is already rolling.
“In St. Louis, one of our biggest challenges is creating additional trade routes and partners so that we can trade everything from technology to goods and services,” said Reed, who told the Ugandan delegation that he is currently working with a friend from their country to sell goods in St. Louis.
Reed’s Ugandan friend makes chocolate bars and tea from the cocoa plant.
Announcement of that business relationship drew applause from Ugandan delegates.
However, Ugandan Parliament member Macho Geoffrey of the Busi District said that getting goods to America isn’t easy.
There are too many restrictions and governance in place to get their goods to America, he said forcefully.
Even getting visas, he said, is an impediment.
He then numerically laid out steps that would need to be taken to help trade between Africans and African-Americans:
- Quickening of business between Africa and America.
- Several goods from Uganda to be allowed export.
- U.S. Congress to allow states to make laws for direct trade links in Africa so that things can move easily without restrictions.
Ugandan Parliament’s Nebbi District member Aol Jacqueline Rama expressed interest in the trade of skills and humanitarian efforts between the two nations, whereby African Americans can relocate to the motherland and vice versa.
“We can train one another, and we can work well with one another,” said Rama, who is also CEO of WestNile Women Development Agency (WEWODA).
“All of our issues are connected. We are one. We were already one, but things will be different from now on,” she said confidently.
Speaking with that same confidence was the St. Louis African Chamber of Commerce President Segun Babalola, a Nigerian immigrant, who has lived in the U.S. for nearly 15 years.
During his session, “The Conversion of Two Worlds: America and Africa,” he said, “You have developed your skills, and those skills are needed on the continent. But it is a two-way street: you invest in the continent and we [the continent] invest in the St. Louis region.”
Pointing to the disinvestment in Africa and Black America by whites and Asians, Babalola said it is best that blacks in the Diaspora invest and trade with one another.
“I believe we have a different interest in the continent opposed to white-owned businesses. It is not against any other group. This is just arguing for more participation from Africans in the United States and abroad,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said other groups are investing in themselves, even abroad.
As recent as 2017, according to a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Africans throughout the world had remitted about $37 billion to sub-Saharan Africa, while direct foreign investments from the U.S, Europe and Asia were $42 billion.
Less than 10 percent of those, however, were actually African investments.
Also, at that same time in South East Asia, $137 billion was invested, according to the report. However, 50 percent of those who invested were Asians investing in their own region.
Closing such economic gaps and disparities is one reason that GILA exists. Along with business, the organization focuses on family, education, church, government, media and arts and entertainment.
“And we find individuals who have strengths in those areas and bring them to the table like you saw today,” said Larita Rice, founder and CEO/Global and Political Advisor for GILA.
Rice, an East St. Louis native, said that as an African-American woman, there were a lot of things that she wasn’t taught, even in the educational system. And that’s why candid conversations about things like systemic oppression and white supremacy in America have to happen.
In bringing the cultures together, they are tearing down walls and negative stigmas: that Africans don’t want to have anything to do with African-Americans and vice versa, Rice said.
She closed Thursday’s conference feeling optimistic.
She said, “All of the speakers were phenomenal, and I’m excited about what happened today, particularly with Lewis Reed closing us out, providing more hope and answers on how we can continue to build the transatlantic relationships and expose us to the resources that are available to do that.”
Learn more at www.globalimpact.org