Monday, January 1, 2007
By: Julia N. Opoti
The Pan African Business Alliance (PABA), Minnesota’s pioneer African chamber of commerce, has a new slate of officers and a fresh strategic direction. During its annual elections, Dr. Siyad Abdullahi, who was PABA’s founding Board Chair, was elected as the new Board Chair. Other elected officials include: Ms. Emilia Dibaki, Ned Financial Services as Vice-Chair; Ms. Lilly Getachew, All American Home Loans Inc. as Treasurer; Nathan White of Nextainment LLC; Prof. Joseph Mbele of Africonnexion will serve as chair of the Membership, Events and Marketing Committee; Henry Ongeri as acting Executive Director and Ms. Safiya Guled as the Administrative Assistant.
Addressing the newly reconstituted Board, Dr. Siyad, CEO of Midwest Career Institute, a private training institute providing training opportunities and skills for employment with an emphasis in the allied health professions, pledged that PABA will continue to live up to its declared mission of becoming a resource network for entrepreneurs. He urged African business and community members to join PABA to increase ownership within the African community in Minnesota.
“In addition to promoting Africa as a business destination, plans are underway for PABA to host Afrifest, an annual business fair alongside with aggressive advocacy on behalf of African owned and operated enterprises”, said Dr. Siyad.
Afrifest 2007, scheduled for August, is an African Summer Festival modeled after the popular African festival in Chicago. Afrifest 2007, whose theme will be “Enlightment, Diversity and Unity", will feature a business fair, music, art, and Taste of Africa. The festival will highlight the contributions of workers and entrepreneurs among Africans and people of African descent in the US.
Nathan White, entrepreneur and owner of Nextainment, an events’ marketing and distribution firm, as a newly elected PABA board member promises that the new year will see PABA occupying its rightful place as the resource network for entrepreneurs “with creative marketing and growth strategies”.
According to Henry Ongeri, the outgoing Chair of the Board of Directors, PABA has received a much-needed shot in the arm with the election of new Board members and a significant shake-up in the organization’s management structure. Since its inception, three years ago, PABA’s mission has been to become a resource network for African Entrepreneurs and an advocate for African-owned businesses in the US and elsewhere. Its new vision will allow PABA to offer opportunities to US-based businesses to invest in Africa’s resources.
“This reorganization enables PABA to tap effectively into the talents and skills of the best business and leadership minds in the community”, says Mr. Ongeri, an attorney and Director of the Tax.
With a growing African population in Minnesota, PABA faces added responsibility. Over the last two years, PABA has hosted successful business fairs attracting several African businesses. This year, PABA hopes to sign up 100 businesses as members. According to Ongeri African business owners who join PABA will receive several benefits. Through PABA events and functions, which will be held regularly throughout the year, members will network with potential business partners, employees and customers. Secondly, PABA as an advocate for African businesses will work with federal, state and local legislatures to increase its bargaining power allowing African business a say in their own running. PABA continues to form alliances with associations and organizations that will contribute to the growth of African businesses. These include Law Centerthe cities of Brooklyn Park, and Brooklyn Center, Wells Fargo, Western Bank, US Small Business Administration (SBA), SCORE "Counselors to America’s Small Business," Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA), Northern Dakota County Chambers of Commerce (NDC) among others.
PABA’s biggest challenge is funding. Increased funding, either through grants, membership fees and/or fundraising will allow PABA to acquire critical facilities such as an office, staff, web presence and marketing which will go a long way in establishing PABA’s prestige.
PABA has made a commitment to increase the visibility of African businesses. As in the past, PABA will continue to host its events in African-owned businesses. Previous events have been held at the African International Marketplace, the Blue Nile and Steak and Ale in Minneapolis.