Tony Elumelu Foundation CEO Dr. Wiebe Boer accompanied Tony Elumelu during the US-Africa Summit this month and left inspired. Below are his favorite memories and moments from the trip.
1. One Thousand and One Voices (1k1v) Dinner
Our first stop was at historic Mt. Vernon, the private residence of President George Washington. In this photo, Tony Elumelu, aka TOE, was greeting his friend Mike Milken in front of a painting of Washington’s original residence. While there, I was struck by the historical importance of this place, where so many decisions were made that shaped the world.
2. The interview with Marie Toure of Africa24
During this interview with TOE, I was struck by a question Ms. Toure asked — “Why are there no francophone African billionaires?” That question really pushed the point home for me that as a Foundation we need to do much more to promote entrepreneurship in Francophone Africa.
3. African Leaders came to the Summit with what TOE described in his keynote as “Confidence and Competence”
The Summit was so historic for me because of the clear change in the tone of the messages and the level of engagement on the African side. African Leaders went to DC with a list of dos and don’ts for their American counterparts, where in the past they arrived seeking aid, this time around they were looking for something more sustainable and more tangible— equal yet African led partnerships.
4. Our cocktail reception
One of the most talked about events of the week turned out to be the reception Heirs Holdings held in partnership with BCIU and others. It was clear in the number of senior business and political leaders from both sides of the Atlantic that it was an important event. There were even US government officials from different sides of the aisle, from Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to former House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The buzz around the event itself was that a new breeze has blown in that is changing the way the United States and the nations of Africa relate to each other, and the private sector and its leaders are driving that change.
5. World Bank President Jim Kim meets TOE, discusses African entrepreneurship
The leader of the World Bank is generally one of the most prominent, well-known people on the globe, so when Jim Kim, current head of the World Bank heard I worked for Tony Elumelu, he said, “he’s the man, I need to meet him,” it reflected a real, rapidly growing recognition of TOE’s role in leading the African private sector, which was pretty encouraging and exciting to witness.
6. Working in the wee hours of the night to keep the ball rolling
On the night before the business portion of the Summit was to hold, I was down in the business center at 2:00am, preparing for what would become the second most important part of the Summit — for me anyway.
7. Arise TV interview yields an unexpected surprise
I was pleasantly surprised when a friend from my Nairobi days, Jeff Koinange, was the correspondent interviewing TOE for Arise TV.
8. Keeping the Show Moving
While the glamour of DC’s vibrant networking scene — particularly during the Summit — was hard to resist, there was work to do. Here I am, working with Charles Aigbe, my colleague from UBA, waiting for TOE to finish an interview and move to the next meeting.
9. Discussing US-Africa and Middle East relations
On the way into the State Dinner President Obama hosted for select delegates at the White House, TOE and John Kerry found time to talk about US Africa and Middle East relations.
10. Susan Rice and I, peas in a pod
TOE and I were on the table next to President Obama’s and were seated with Susan Rice and her husband Ian Cameron as well as the President and First Lady of Ghana, the Prime and Foreign Ministers of Libya and a few others. And though as President Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice is one of the most powerful people in the US government, she was warm and down to earth. In fact, her parents lived in Lagos before she was born as her father was helping set up the Central Bank of Nigeria. Dr. Rice and I are both McKinsey alums and her husband grew up on Vancouver Island as did my father — so there was much in common.
11. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and I, at the State Dinner
I’ve met Nigeria’s president in the past in very formal settings, but there was something about this meeting — I felt proud to be a part of what will surely become history and was honoured that Mr. Elumelu took me as his guest to be part of a very small Nigerian delegation at the largest State Dinner in White House history.
12. Obama’s remarks during the White House dinner in honour of African leaders
In his speech, President Barack Obama acknowledged the role that being of African descent has had in shaping him. Awesome moment. And I was sitting right there.
13. On the way to Capitol Hill, to press for Electrify Africa
I was humbled by the size and scale of what we went to Washington to do. This is TOE and I as we approached the Capitol Building, to appeal directly to Congress to pass a piece of important legislation.
14. Leaving the Hill and preparing for more work
The Summit was an important event and one whose outcomes will surely impact Africa’s development for years to come. As we left the Summit and prepared to leave DC, it was clear that while much progress had been made, there is still more to come.