01 Aug Last Minute Thoughts on the U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit
I’m off to Washington DC for the inaugural U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit to be attended by nearly fifty heads of state from Africa. I already have meetings scheduled to startSaturday evening and they will continue all day, every day, throughout the event which officially ends next Wednesday. But I can guarantee you it will carry on unofficially until Friday. Also, I expect to see many of the same people I already know, that are tuned into what is happening in Africa, and that is NOT a good thing.
First of all, so many USA businesses that could attend events surrounding the big “official summit”, and take the first steps to closing what could be massive deals for them, haven’t given attending a second thought. Now that is just the “Africa factor” and the stale and inaccurate mindset most Americans, not just executives, have about Africa. My litmus test is simple. Have you been there? I will use that line in Washington many time is the upcoming days. Therefore, the event will be unattended by many USA business executives that should be there.
Secondly, we now have the Ebola factor. Not to take away from the seriousness of the issue or the horrible loss of lives it has caused, but this will also have an impact on attendance to the event, and some people are even calling for it to be canceled. The Ebola news is nothing but more evidence of how things can be magnified and brush all of Africa with a single stroke of color. Let’s remember Africa is 54 countries and they are talking about 3 countries in northwest Africa effected by Ebola. Sure everyone has to be careful but let’s not get carried away. Ebola is much harder to contract than a cold, influenza and many other things that can harm you.
In 2002, at the height of the famous SARS epidemic in Asia (remember that?) I had the opportunity to go to mainland China to negotiate some contracts to update Chinese tire factories. Hong Kong was literally a ghost town, the flights to Asia were empty and the west couldn’t produce, and ship, enough of those face masks. My best friend is a doctor and has over 100,000 patience in the largest family practice in Ohio. I asked him his opinion. He told me it was probably the safest time to go since I would not come into contact with many people at all. I went and got the deals. Sadly, I fear some business people will even cancel their plans to go to Washington and miss out because of the Ebola hype. I hope not.
I couldn’t be more excited about the U.S. – Africa Summit in Washington. I know it will be great and, as usual, some powerful new connections will be made and that very big, never thought of before opportunity, may fall into my lap. I’ll see a few of you there and I’ll update the rest of you on my return.