Chris Coons’ ‘Opportunity in Africa’ event highlights US commitment to Africa

Delaware Congressional District Leader Kelly Wetzel relays her understanding of Africa’s potential for progress.

This week, Senator Chris Coons of Delaware hosted his second annual “Opportunity: Africa” conference at Delaware State University in Dover, Delaware. This week, numerous experts on African affairs gathered to discuss sustainable development and trade in Africa. With six of the 10 fastest growing economies, everyone was in agreement that Africa is not an area to overlook.

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Kelly with Kenyan Ambassador to the United States, Elkanah Odembo. Photo credit: Kelly Wetzel.

Kenyan Ambassador to the United States, Elkanah Odembo, spoke of the growth his country has seen as Kenya celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence. Kenya also held Africa’s first presidential debate this week. Odembo took pride in these accomplishments, but also stressed that Africa as a whole still has a long way to go. He believes that the US needs to continue its involvement in the continent as funding towards programs such as PEPFAR and the Global Fund has saved millions of lives.

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Kelly with Michael Gerson, Senior ONE Advisor. Photo Credit: Kelly Wetzel.

The conference’s second keynote speaker was our own Michael Gerson, Senior ONE Adviser. Gerson provided his own expertise to the audience as he told his story of how he came to work in such a specialized area of politics. Furthering Odembo’s remarks on the progress of Africa, Gerson emphasized the importance of both the moral obligation to help Africa in its struggles but also the idea that Africa offers strategic benefits. China has realized these incentives and already positioned itself as a strong presence on the continent. Unlike the US, China provides services with “no strings attached.” Gerson believes the policies the US require to be implemented with its aid is key in the growth of African countries. He also made a point to talk about the impending sequester due to occur on March 1st and exactly how devastating the cuts would be to life-saving programs ONE cares about.  According to Gerson, equal cuts do not mean equal suffering.

All in all, Senator Coons provided another successful and informative conference on African affairs. As chair of the Subcommittee on African Affairs, Coons remains committed to the progress of the region.

Consider hosting an Advocacy in Action event in your neighborhood – for details contact, field@one.org.