The Leon Sullivan Summit, named for the American civil rights activist and global philanthropist, continues today in Abuja, Nigeria. The conference brings together heads of state, entrepreneurs, NGOs and other participants in an effort to create cultural awareness and economic growth programs. Through this forum, the Leon Sullivan Foundation hopes to connect Africa to other nations and generate awareness about the continent’s problems. VOA English to Africa reporter Kim Lewis is covering the summit in Abuja; she talked about it with VOA English to Africa reporter Chinedu Offor.
“Last night wrapped up with a…reception with [Nigerian] President [Olusegun] Obasanjo making a speech and also there was a musical drama, which everyone really enjoyed. But today it was back to all business and this afternoon World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz…addressed the crowd and he gave some very encouraging words to everyone regarding how Africans think about their progress. For instance, a Gallup poll shows that over 65% of Africans feel they are better off now in 2006 than in 2005.”
Lewis says Wolfowitz attributed Africa’s progress to various proceedings within the last year.
“For one thing, he says that the leadership in countries is improving…. A lot of the African presidents are…trying to adhere to…the standards and practices regarding good governance and anti-corruption. Also he says that…people are ready now: they want to work; they want to be productive…. A third thing that he talked about is the trade in private sectors is…growing and…how it is growing so much so here in Nigeria…. There are a lot of partnerships that are developing and that have been developing over the past twenty years with Americans and Nigerians.”
Lewis spoke with the Tanzanian president, Jakaya Kikwete, about what he hopes to gain from attending the conference.
“He said that it was important for him to be at this conference because he sees that the African Diaspora, there’s a resource there. There is a resource that is between Africa and Tanzania and other countries and he wants to tap into that particular resource…. And he says that by building partnerships with others they can really do something at a more significant level.”
HIV/AIDS is a central topic of the summit as the disease continues to plague the continent, affecting not just personal lives but also the economic welfare of nations. Lewis said in particular, former president Bill Clinton’s NGO is influential in “working to get the proper drugs [and] prevention tools in place…because, of course, AIDS is very, very big, and it does affect the economic development of a country. So he is working with various countries throughout Africa.”
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