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Rep. Karen Bass Hosts African Dignitaries at CBCF Annual Legislative Conference

Congresswoman Karen Bass

California Congressmember Karen Bass, Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Africa, held the 2013 Africa Braintrust at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. This year’s Braintrust, “African Union: 50 Years of Unity & a Future of Progress,” featured policymakers and analysts, academics, activists, entrepreneurs from the continent, and members of the African diaspora. Panelists discussed the past 50 years of the struggle for African unity, the future of entrepreneurship in Africa, and the untapped potential of the African diaspora in the United States. Nearly 600 people from around the country and world attended the panels and speeches throughout the day.

The keynote address of the Braintrust featured the African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson, Her Excellency Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the Commision’s first female head including that of its predecessor organization, the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Her visit coincides with high-level meeting at the 68th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) held in New York.

“What an incredible honor to not only have Chairperson Zuma come to address this year’s Braintrust, but also two sitting presidents,” said Rep. Bass. “We plan to build on this event to continue the dialogue regarding the U.S. relationship with the African continent and I hope to continue to engage relevant stakeholders as we develop a more positive narrative of Africa.”

Chairperson Zuma paid homage to the combined 50th anniversary of the OAU and AU and a history which saw the fall of colonialism and apartheid and the rise of the independent nations of Africa.  The Chairperson also remembered the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the impact Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy had in Africa.

The African Presidents’ Panel featured President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso and President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud of the Federal Republic of Somalia. Each addressed the audience regarding their perspectives of the role of the African Union.  President Compoare spoke of the “Brotherhood and Solidarity” of the AU and his experience assisting in the mediation of peaceful settlements on the continent.  President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud spoke of the role played by the AU in support of Somalia enabling the country to “stand on its feet” following two decades of conflict and anarchy.

Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) also spoke briefly at the African Braintrust.

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