Prior to an official White House visit with four African leaders, Amini Kajunju, president and CEO of The Africa-America Institute (AAI), reached out to the presidents of Malawi and Sierra Leone in a Mar. 25 letter, encouraging them to underscore the importance of strengthening Africa’s human capital to prepare nations to compete in a knowledge-based global economy and accelerate economic growth in the meeting with President Barack Obama.
AAI is a New York-based international organization dedicated to advancing higher education and professional training for Africans, and promoting engagement between Africa and America through education, training and dialogue. It is the oldest nonprofit organization of its kind in the United States.
President Obama met with President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Joyce Banda of Malawi, and Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde on March 28. The White House meeting discussed bolstering democratic institutions, and building on Africa’s democratic progress to generate increased economic opportunities and expanded trade and investment, according to a White House statement.
Malawian President Banda and Sierra Leonean President Koroma were specifically selected by AAI due to their relationship with the organization. President Banda was recognized with the AAI Award for Championing Women’s Rights and Business Leadership at the Annual Awards Dinner Gala in 2012; and President Koroma accepted the African National Reconciliation and Peace Award on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone in 2011.
Kajunju said in the letters that strengthening education on all levels in Africa is key to socio-economic development in Africa. “African participation in higher education is critical for African professionals to gain the necessary skills for today’s knowledge-based economy and to meet local and global market demands for highly skilled workers,” both letters emphasized.
AAI’s policy brief, “Equipping the African Continent for 21st Century Jobs to Bolster Economic Growth and Prosperity,” which outlines policy areas for the Obama Administration, accompanied the letter.
In a statement after meeting with the African leaders, President Obama said: “And all of us recognize that, although Africa has actually been growing faster than almost every other region of the world, it started from a low baseline and it still has a lot of work to do. And that means building human capacity and improving education and job skills for rapidly growing and young populations. It means improving access to energy and transportation sectors. And so we discussed how the United States can continue to partner effectively with each of these countries.”