Growing up in the United States as a first-generation child of Ghanaian parents, Deniece Laurent-Mantey often seized the opportunity of her direct connection to the African continent. Through her relationships with many Africans and African Americans, she realized the importance of being unified. Now, as a U.S. foreign affairs officer, she works to connect more people on both sides of the Atlantic.
“There is a true impact we can make as young leaders if the diaspora and folks on the continent come together, but the first step is through identity,” she said at the inaugural African Diaspora Young Leaders Summit on August 3 in Washington.
At the summit, 100 Mandela Washington Fellows of 2018 met an equal number of their counterparts from the African diaspora, or people of African descent, to discuss ways the groups may connect to advance development in their shared homeland.
Melvin Foote, president of the Constituency for Africa, voiced optimism about their efforts. “I am confident that you will be the generation to transform Africa. … You’re going to be the Wakanda Generation,” he said, referring to the fictional kingdom of the Marvel superhero Black Panther, which is both a place deeply rooted in African heritage and a center of invention.
100 young leaders from Africa + 100 others in the diaspora convene for the first ever #ADYL summit to strengthen unity among Africans and promote international development. #AU #Africa #Leadership #Mandela100 #YALI Streaming live on FB right now.https://t.co/O8GM6GJS5k pic.twitter.com/QJ77QTFGX8
— Gloria Nzeka (@glo_nzk) August 3, 2018
The African Union Mission to the United States hosted the event to encourage the current generation of Africans and African Americans to see itself as one community.
“We must tell ourselves once again that we are one people, one heart, one mind, one voice, one continent,” said Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, African Union ambassador to the United States.
Toyin Doherty, a Nigerian-born American, called the summit a life-changing experience. “I had the opportunity to learn how we as a people individually and collectively view our systemic, socioeconomic, historical and cultural problems,” she said.
“I am also excited about the future: the opportunity the summit brought to connect and collaborate with other young leaders to tackle our problems.”
Doherty is building an online platform that will connect entrepreneurs and investors across Africa, America and the diaspora to encourage business partnerships. Speakers and panelists encouraged attendees to share their skills and create opportunities for collaboration, even in the room where they sat.
“We’re counting on you young people,” Ambassador Chihombori-Quao said. “The relationships created here today should move Africa to the next level. Let not this be another meeting until we meet again. We want results.”