Staying in line with their vision to have a well-informed, empowered and united African community in Southwestern Pennsylvania, the United States and the African continent, the Union of African Communities in Southwestern PA hosted a conversation with Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, African Union Ambassador to the U.S., at the Department of Human Services Building, Downtown.
The theme of the 2018 event was, “African Union A to Z: A Conversation with the African Diaspora.”
African Union Ambassador to the U.S. since the latter part of 2016, Chihombori-Quao has been traveling the U.S., promoting unity and discussing ways to forge productive partnerships among the African diaspora, the academic community and the African Union. Her concern is how the entities can work toward a more inclusive engagement in policymaking and economic development between the U.S. and Africa.
In a wide-ranging discussion on the current state and future of engagement between the U.S. and Africa, Dr. Chihombori-Quao pointed out that the image of Africa throughout the U.S. has to be changed. “As I travel the country, I am amazed that people don’t know the history and the real Africa.”
Providing a little background, she said that dating back to the 1800s, all countries bombarded African soil and strategized ways to divide the continent. That division still exists today, but it is time to change.
“We have to change our mindset and realize our wealth. It bothers me that as the richest continent on earth that we are portrayed as the poorest. Our raw materials are leaving Africa, creating employment for the world and we consume the things we send out.”
Dr. Chihombori-Quao said change would come with a better education of youth and with Africans and African Americans working together. She also mentioned that a connection has been made between she and the Zambian government to be part of the Wakanda One Village proposed to be built jointly by Zimbabwe and Zambia as a nerve center for development across Southern Africa. “Government has offered the African Union land in the Victoria Falls area for the project,” she said.
Promising to provide detailed information at a later date, she mentioned that the concept involves the building of “African Centres of Excellence” across the continent, targeting investment by Africans across the globe.
As the African Union (AU) Ambassador to the U.S., Dr. Chihombori-Quao is fully committed to reinforcing the longstanding and deep historic, cultural and economic relations between Africa and the U.S. She plays a key role in strengthening the AU strategic partnerships with the U.S., grounded on shared values and mutual interests. Dr. Chihombori-Quao is a strong believer in the promise that the AU/U.S. partnership holds and that a prosperous, peaceful and integrated Africa is a shared strategic interest.
Dr. Chihombori-Quao has also been actively involved in various programs and projects of the AU. Since 2012, she was the Chair of the African Union/African Diaspora Health Initiative, where she was involved in mobilizing African Diaspora health professionals to assist in addressing the health care crisis on the continent of Africa.
Known internationally for her efforts to improve health care systems, particularly in countries in Africa, and for promoting women’s rights worldwide, Dr. Chihombori-Quao was a family medicine doctor in Murfreesboro, Tenn., for more than 25 years. Prior to that she did three years General Surgery at State University of New York in Brooklyn and a residency in Family Medicine at Meharry Medical College in Nashville. She is a member of the American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, and Tennessee Academy of Family Physicians.
“We were very pleased that Pittsburgh was one of the stops on the Ambassador’s tour,” said Sylvester Omeje, assistant executive director of the Union of African Communities (UAC). “Locally we aim to keep our members and the community informed and empowered. The initiatives of the Ambassador give us something to work toward and builds alliances locally as well as nationally.”
Throughout its decade of existence, UAC’s mission has been to foster unity, empowerment and linkages, along with improving the quality of life for Africans in the Pittsburgh region.
The UAC is constituted by Pittsburgh-based leadership and representation from 25-plus African countries.
“Discussions like the one with the ambassador has to continue,” said Benedict Killang, executive director of UAC. “We must continue to seek help from our leadership, but we have to help ourselves first. We have to work together. As an umbrella organization for local African communities, we strive to do our part to make a difference.”
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