African Union ambassador brings Wakanda vision to Minnesota

The African Union ambassador to the United States, Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao (left) and Brooklyn Center mayor Mike Elliot share a laugh at a luncheon in the mayor's city to discuss the AU's vision of Wakanda on Monday, February 25, 2019. Photo: Rory Barigayomwe for Mshale.

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. – Less than 24 hours after the movie Black Panther took home some Oscars, the African Union ambassador to the United States, Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, was in Brooklyn Center to share the AU’s mission to build a real Wakanda in Africa. Brooklyn Center in November elected the first mayor in the metro area born in Africa when it elected Mike Elliot.

The ambitious project, dubbed Wakanda One Village Project, will consist of five African Centers of Excellence in each of the five regions of the African continent, the ambassador told a rapt audience. She first unveiled the project a year ago.

How to fund the ambitious project was the focus of a lunch meeting with African immigrant community and business leaders on Monday. The goal is to have one center of excellence going in the shared Victoria Falls border between Zambia and Zimbabwe where both countries have pledged land to that effect, the ambassador said. The first center is projected to cost $5billion and will comprise a state-of-the-art teaching hospital, a university, five-star hotels among others which will be replicated at the other centers of excellence on the continent. Other news reports have indicated that in addition to Zambia and Zimbabwe, Kenya and Tanzania are the other African countries that have pledged land for a center of excellence.

In a wide-ranging address at the Minnesota luncheon the ambassador said the African Union Mission to the United States and Industrial Bank, an African-American owned bank in Washington reached an agreement last year to have the bank act as the depository and the starting point for what she referred to as the African Diaspora Global Bank.

“Nasibu (Nasibu Sareva of African Development Center) has all the information on how to open your account,” Chihombori-Quao said, adding that with a minimum monthly internment of $10 into the Industrial Bank account, the individual’s $100 per year goal is easily attainable. The African Development Center and the African Nurses Network co-hosted the luncheon on Monday.

“Open the account now as the money remains yours,” Chihombori-Quao exhorted those present. “If 1,000 of you just deposit $100 each year at this bank, we have $100,000 to start and double that if its $200 a year.’

“I found out every Sunday black churches (in the US) are collecting $50 million and every Monday they make a beeline to white-owned banks to deposit that money, how stupid are we?” She reiterated the importance of people of African descent supporting each other’s business by patronizing each other to ensure money circulates within the global African diaspora.

Chihombori-Quao said one of the urgent matters her mission in DC is working on is the establishment of active working regions in the Americas. “We are not sleeping no more, we are waking up.” She revealed that Texas has a regional group organized and she is hopeful that Minnesota will follow in that part soon.

Ambassador Chihombori-Quao also spoke of the challenges the soc0alled Sixth Region has had in gaining traction and being effectively operationalized. In 2012, during the African union’s Global African Diaspora Summit, a declaration was issued that called on the African diaspora to “organize themselves in regional networks and establish appropriate mechanisms that will enable their increasing participation in the affairs of the African Union as observers and eventually, in the future, as a sixth region of the continent that would contribute substantially to the implementation of policies and programs.”

The Sixth Region has however proved difficult to operationalize, Chihombori-Quao said on Monday. “We are just not organized here in the diaspora, and you cannot blame the AU heads of states.”

The African Union over the years since that 2012 Global African Diaspora Summit formed the Citizens and Diaspora Organizations Directorate (CIDO), to try and operationalize the Sixth Region. At Monday’s meeting, the head of CIDO, Ahmed El Basheer, flew in from the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa to urge those at the meeting to respond to the call to organize. pointing to the influence of the Pro-Israeli lobby in American politics, El Basheer said “you and I know you cannot be elected to the White House in this country without their (Jews) support.” He called on Africans in the US to follow the same playbook.

Present at the luncheon was the mayor of Brooklyn Center, Mike Elliot, Minneapolis Council member Abdi Warsame, Brooklyn Park Council member Wynfred Russell and Honorary Consul of Liberia in Minnesota Jackson George. Elliot made opening remarks to welcome the ambassador and her delegation to his city. Also present was Ian Oundo, the DFL’s Civic Engagement Director. The luncheon as moderated by the president of the African Nurses Network, Lyna Nyamwaya, a rising star within Minnesota’s African immigrant leadership circle.

About Tom Gitaa Gitaa, Editor-in-Chief

Born and raised in Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa, Tom is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Mshale which has been reporting on the news and culture of African immigrants in the United States since 1995. He has a BA in Business from Metro State University and a Public Leadership Credential from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He was the original host of Talking Drum, the signature current affairs show on the African Broadcasting Network (ABN-America), which was available nationwide in the United States via the Dish Network satellite service. On the show, he interviewed Nobel laureates such as 2004 Nobel Peace prize winner, Professor Wangari Maathai, the first woman from Africa to win the peace prize and heads of states. Tom has served and chaired various boards including Global Minnesota (formerly Minnesota International Center), the sixth largest World Affairs Council in the United States. He has previously served as the first Black President of the Board of Directors at Books for Africa. He also serves on the boards of New Vision Foundation and the Minnesota Multicultural Media Consortium. He has previously served two terms on the board of the United Nations Association. An avid runner, he retired from running full marathons after turning 50 and now only focuses on training for half marathons.

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