Africa Atlanta 2014: Commerce, culture and heritage

Chris Van Es

Illustration by Chris Van Es

Moderated by Rick Badie

Atlanta and the state look to strengthen social and economic relationships with Africa. Because of that, various leaders collaborated to organize Africa Atlanta 2014, a year-long, citywide observance of cross-cultural ties between the two regions. Today, a Georgia Tech dean who founded the initiative explains its purpose, while a trade executive sheds light on potential business opportunities with the continent. Elsewhere, an Emory University official touts the benefits of that campus’ efforts to “go green.”

Africa offers opportunities for Georgia firms

By Donald Nay

Over the past decade, U.S. trade with sub-Saharan Africa has nearly doubled. Last year, U.S. exports to the region topped $24 billion. According to the International Monetary Fund, the region is home to seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies.

As the second-fastest growing region in the world, the sub-Sahara is outpacing global average growth largely due to its growing middle class and purchasing power. There are also improvements in governance, technology and infrastructure.

Georgia businesses are well-positioned to take advantage of these opportunities. The “Doing Business in Africa” campaign, a key element of President Barack Obama’s National Export Initiative, is an unprecedented government approach to deepen U.S. commercial engagement in sub-Saharan Africa, address market barriers and expand the availability of trade financing.

Over the past year through the Africa business campaign, the Commerce Department has provided specialized nationwide training for our trade counselors, brought hundreds of prospective African buyers to U.S. trade shows and hosted outreach opportunities across the country.  Most recently, several U.S. government agencies collaborated to launch the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Development and Finance Center in Johannesburg, South Africa. It helps the region’s energy developers implement clean energy projects and promotes U.S. private-sector participation in area economic development.

Georgia merchandise exports to Africa have grown by 91 percent since 2009, to $861 million in 2013. Diversified export sales range from transportation equipment and food manufacturing to machinery, paper products and much more. Georgia businesses continue to seek new opportunities.  Mayor Kasim Reed’s planned trade mission to Nigeria and South Africa has helped put the African continent at the forefront of the city’s international agenda. His trip  coincides with Africa Atlanta 2014, a year-long, citywide series of events that highlight Atlanta as a nexus for renewing cultural and economic bonds.

The Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration continues to be engaged on the African continent. Its U.S. Export Assistance Centers in Atlanta and Savannah collaborate closely with our overseas offices in Africa, State Department partner posts, other federal agencies and local partners to help Georgia companies export. One beneficiary of this export assistance is Georgia-based Strength of Nature Global LLC, which has made new sales of hair care solutions throughout Africa.

This fall, the trade administration’s U.S. Commercial Service will  host the upcoming Discover Global Markets — Sub Saharan Africa trade conference in Atlanta.

The conference, scheduled for Nov. 5-6, will mark the second anniversary of the launch of the Doing Business In Africa Campaign, and is part of a series of high-profile nationwide events that focus on different export markets. At the forum, businesses will be able to leverage the latest market intelligence, meet with our trade diplomats from throughout Africa, and take advantage of networking opportunities.

Donald Nay is director of the U.S. Commercial Service’s Export Assistance Center in Atlanta.

Feel Africa’s soul in Atlanta

By Jacqueline J. Royster

What a great time to be in Atlanta!

Our city is a living memorial to the nation’s past because it dramatically symbolizes what it means to be “Southern.” It embodies a staggering set of residual effects that tie directly to the slave economy on which the region and the nation were originally built. Simultaneously, Atlanta has become an epicenter for business, health, higher education, technological development, transportation, sports and entertainment. A quick glance at a world map tells the story.

Geopolitically, Atlanta is at a critical location within the trans-Atlantic triangle of Africa, Europe and the Americas. We have a chance to re-invent what it means to be Southern due to continuously evolving relationships within that space and the richness of the diasporic communities that call Atlanta home — to be a pace-setting 21st-century city and a trans-Atlantic beacon.

This context made possible Africa Atlanta 2014 (

With a serendipitous opportunity to bring to Atlanta some of the most remarkable African art in the world, the Georgia Tech Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts formed a collaboration with the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium; the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida, and the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum to showcase the exhibition “Kongo Across the Waters,” from May 17 to Sept. 21.

Africa Atlanta 2014, however, is more than just one exhibition. With a goal of collaboration and cooperation, the Ivan Allen College sought to bring a citywide response to the question: What would it mean to “feel the soul of Africa in the heart of Atlanta?”

More than 50 partners across the city and beyond have brought together a spectacular set of events under this theme. Events range across the arts, business and innovation, health, science, technology and education and more, connecting local issues and interests to larger global landscapes while underscoring Atlanta as the nexus for engagement, innovation and action.

Visitors will be able to experience such programs as the Art of Bernard Williams at the Booth Western Art Museum, African Mask/Masquerade at the High Museum, and the conference “Africa beyond Africa: The Future of Cultural, Social, and Scientific Research” at Georgia Tech.

Symbolized by the phoenix, Atlanta is rising once again, unafraid of challenge or change, and ready not only for the 21st century, but for global leadership.

Jacqueline J. Royster is dean of Georgia Tech’s Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.

Sustainability practices worth the effort

By Ciannat Howett

Creating a healthy community can start with your coffee cup.

At Emory University, we are removing polystyrene (“Styrofoam”) from our coffee-vendor services, dining halls, catering and procurement website. We are encouraging our community to use recyclable or compostable options. This change is just one piece of Emory’s sustainability initiative, a comprehensive effort to create a model for healthy living and a thriving environmental, social and economic future.

In metro-Atlanta, putting sustainable practices in place can seem too daunting, expensive and time-consuming. But it can be done. The payoff — in dollars and social capital — is worth it.

Styrofoam is really effective at insulating hot food and beverages and protecting fragile materials. It is also relatively inexpensive. However, the price of Styrofoam does not reflect its social and environmental costs. Most of us know Styrofoam will live for years in a landfill before completely breaking down. These landfills often degrade the quality of life and property values of communities and release greenhouse gases. The production of Styrofoam also releases volatile organic compounds, which contribute to smog.

Accounting for environmental, social and financial costs led Emory to adopt aggressive sustainability goals and change many practices. Emory’s Styrofoam elimination effort will support our goal to divert 65 percent of our waste from landfills to recycling or composting. We are more than halfway there.

Emory also has reduced energy consumption by a little over 22 percent since 2005. We are working to reduce water use by 20 percent by 2020. The environmental and social benefits are clear. These efforts have resulted in approximately $23.1 million in utility savings to date. Those savings allow Emory to support academic and research endeavors rather than spend these funds on utility bills.

Our sustainability initiative has also already met the goal of having 50 percent of our staff and students commute using alternatives other than driving solo. We purchase 26 percent local or sustainable food for our cafeterias; our goal is 75 percent.

We are educating the future leaders of our local and global community. Creating a campus that is an immersion experience in sustainable living and “walking the talk” of a healthy, responsible and ethical way of living is our goal. We still have miles to go, but we see a day when composting or taking the stairs become as second nature as putting on your seat belt when you drive.

So, when we talk about creating healthy, prosperous and vibrant communities in our metro region and state — particularly in these tight economic times — it is important that we adopt full-cost accounting: What’s the social cost? The environmental and public health cost?

Only then can we see our $1.50 coffee in a Styrofoam cup costs a whole lot more.

Ciannat M. Howett is director of Sustainability Initiatives at Emory University.

2 comments Add your comment

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

April 23rd, 2014
5:56 pm

My politically connected African friends said they prefer doing the vast majority of business, commerce, culture, and heritage with The Peoples Republic of China. And it’s because China doesn’t meddle in the internal affairs of their country.

Whereas The United States of America, and those subject to the jurisdiction thereof, will not do business in Africa unless African governments accept their values, i.e. integration, homosexuality, abortion, interracial marriage, profit over people, etc..



April 23rd, 2014
12:31 pm

I wonder about the opportunities in eastern Europe, EU/NATO members with developing economies. It looks like China has gotten most of the good opportunities in Africa. Atlanta should also look to Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Israel and South Korea for high tech partnerships.