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Leon Sullivan Summit Convenes in Abuja


The seventh Leon Sullivan Summit began Monday in Abuja, Nigeria. This year’s theme is “Africa: A Continent of Opportunities, Building Partnerships for Success.” VOA English to Africa reporter Kim Lewis is attending the Summit; from Abuja, she spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter Chinedu Offor about the goals and events of the conference.

“This year’s theme is ‘Africa: A Continent of Opportunities, Building Partnerships for Success.’ And this is brining together people from all over the world and from various walks of life. Just to give you an idea, the people that I came over with on the plane were dignitaries, there was a Hollywood actress who does a lot of business here in Abuja in Nigeria, her name is Sheryl Lee Ralph, there were many other people on the plane, entrepreneurs who are all coming to Africa to build partnerships to help Africa become more successful.”

Lewis says that the conference is not solely about making money, but about understanding others and creating lasting and relationships.

“One of the unique things about this particular summit, this is the seventh summit that the Leon Sullivan Foundation is presenting, this particular summit is bringing together people…a culture theme is more at the forefront of this particular summit. And that is because it’s not just about money all the time, even though, of course, money is a key issue, but it’s about people and it’s about understanding people, it is about understanding different cultures, and why some people think differently than other people. Because the idea is that if you can get to the root of that and get that part of it taken care of, understanding the culture, then you can go ahead and do business and maybe the business aspect might go a little bit smoother if you just get down to the grass roots and just understand what makes people tick.”

She says that former US President Bill Clinton made a presentation earlier in the day, speaking about the efforts of NGOs, local businesses, and governments. His own NGO is active on the continent, especially in promoting AIDS programs.

“He spoke this afternoon at a luncheon and he was very well received here in Africa. As you know the former president has an NGO that does a lot of work here in Africa, and right now AIDS is at the forefront of that NGO and also President Clinton stressed the importance of NGOs. He really said that people do not need to forget the grass roots, the people that are out there making things happen at a grass roots level, and that is the NGO. And he said for NGOs and for people to get together to become more successful, they have to build a partnership with the local businesses as well as the government. So you need the three aspects working together for Africa to become a success.”

Lewis says it is too early to tell if the summit will produce concrete resolutions. “I know in the past there have been some successes on a smaller scale, individual bases, like with the entrepreneurs who are over here who are setting up businesses who travel back and forth, for instance from the United States. I talked with someone who…has an oil company, and he’s trying to set up here in Nigeria, he’s from the United States, very small scale, and it looks like he’s going to be successful at it from what he was telling me. It’s the small successes that I’ve seen, which is really important because it means that an individual can come over here to build an empire. It’s like the sky is the limit.”

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