A Gathering for Africans and Friends of Africa
On a crisp autumn Saturday in Washington, DC, members of the Peace Corps Community along with members of the African Diaspora came together at SAIS, the John Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, for one day to hear ideas about projects on the ground by and for Africans. It was the National Peace Corps Association’s Africa Rural Connect platform come to life: a space to discuss technologies, music, art, youth, and agriculture, and meet new connections and potential business acquaintances and partners.
The event, Africa Gathering, was co-hosted by the National Peace Corps Association’s Manager of Online Initiatives, Molly Mattessich, along with Kathleen Bomani, event curator of TEDxDar, and Marieme Jamme, co-founder of Africa Gathering. Marieme was a judge of the Africa Rural Connect contests for 2009 and 2010, and is a strong supporter of the National Peace Corps Association’s work and efforts to maintain the relationships and dialogue between RPCVs and people on her home continent.
The day was filled with articulate presenters sharing their passions, from Semhar Araia, founder of the Diaspora African Women Network whose mission is to “develop and support talented women & girls of the African Diaspora focused on African affairs,” to Kambale Musavuli of the “Friends Of the Congo” organization who shared his perspective on how the situation in the Congo is relevant to all African countries. One of the most moving parts of the event was when Sosena Soloman shared clips of her film, “Merkato,” filmed in the markets of the biggest open air market in Addis Abbaba.
A 2009 Prize winner of the Africa Rural Connect contest, Katherine Lucey, of Solar Sister, also presented on the successes her project has had in recent years. Solar Sister uses the Avon sales model to empower rural women to sell solar lights in their communities and “light up Africa” while also earning a livable wage. Of note, the lights that the Solar Sister women sell are made by 2011 Sergeant Shriver Award winner Sam Goldman’s company, d.light.
Wendy Lee (RPCV Cameroon 08-10) tweeted during the event, “So many amazing projects @africagathering. I keep getting ideas on how to advertise & promote these ideas to the world.” Cherisse Gardner (RPCV Liberia 80-82) tweeted, “If the brilliant energy here is reflective of the people working for change in Africa things are looking up!”
The emcee of the day, Jackson M’vunganyi of Voice of America’s Upfront Africa, also told everyone about his work on the radio youth show aimed at getting the youth in Africa engaged with their civic leaders. Khwezi Magwaza, formerly at the magazine “Seventeen South Africa,” spoke on how her former organization was able to research and implement the most efficient way of communicate with adolescent girls. Dr. George Ayitteh, a Ghanaian economist, author and president of the Free Africa Foundation in Washington, DC, was the final speaker of the day, and he left the audience pumped up after his powerful talk on, amongst other things, the “Cheetah” generation, which is what he called young Africans in the Diaspora making their way back to the continent to invest in it.
Abou Kone, a Cote d’Ivoire native and technology programmer living in Washington, DC, called it, “a refreshing, inspiring experience, really unlike anything I had been to before and reminded me that African people are achieving things worldwide.”
During the week after the event, attendees were so energized by the discussions and presenters that they announced on Twitter the start of weekly gatherings in Washington, DC called, “Thought Leader Thursdays,” when leaders in the African Diaspora will continue the “lively and thought-provoking discussions” following Africa Gathering. All are welcome to attend these events. Learn more on Twitter using hashtag #TLThursdays.
The Africa Rural Connect online platform is gearing up for another round of contests to share ideas in 2012. We hope that you will post your plans and collaborate with others to build the best ideas for Africa.
More information on future events can be found on the Africa Gathering website at www.AfricaGathering.org.
Win a prize for your idea!
Win a prize for your idea!
Collaborate with others to turn your best idea into a practical, creative, sustainable plan with real world impact. Don’t Delay!