The 2021 Global Leadership Africa Summit convened on Oct. 23 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown Omaha. The day-long event featured a variety of speakers, panels and workshops.
The Summit, which has previously met in 2018 and 2019, seeks to connect the professionals, entrepreneurs and leaders of Africa, with no discrimination between those form the continent and diaspora. Cultural diversity is a particular focus, and networking and connection were encouraged.
There were more than a few highlights from the event. Opening remarks included comments from former Omaha mayor Hal Daub and Global Leadership Africa Summit host and creator Marco Kpeglo LeRoc, also an author and international speaker. The event’s designated “empowering speaker” was Lual Mayen, the founder and CEO of Junub Games — Mayen grew up in a refugee camp in Uganda, and creates video games to promote peace and benefit refugees. Several panels were held, inhabited with lively discussion from local and global leaders, before several separate workshops, where attendees split up to follow different speakers in breakout sessions. The main conference closed with an address by headliner Boris Kodjoe. A noted actor, director, producer, philanthropist and entrepreneur, he was ushered to the stage with the music of a live drum band.
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion panel featured four speakers and was moderated by Cammy Watkins, who is an executive director at Omaha’s Inclusive Communities organization. University of Nebraska Chancellor Joanne Li opened up the panel by talking about the experience of succeeding as a minority in new fields. Chancellor Li has been a “first” many times throughout her life and career, from being a first generation college student all the way to being the first woman of color and first Asian American to serve as Chancellor at UNO.
“The world needs you to be the first,” Chancellor Li said, referring not only to the personal achievements that we bring to the world, but also for what we all can do for others.
“Being the first one to show love and care to a kid as young as a kindergartener changes lives,” Chancellor Li said.
Rowena Cage, an artist, writer and owner of Tinsy Thoughts LLC, uses her platform to foster all kinds of diversity and encourage the use of pronouns. Her experience as a real estate agent provided key knowledge to help her sustain her business as an artist. She emphasized the value of practical knowledge and experience — it would have been much harder to get her message out into the world without the ability to keep her platform afloat.
Captain Komi Afetse has served for 11 years in the U.S. Army. Born and raised in the African nation of Togo, Afetse stressed the importance of diversity in not only the military, but all aspects of life. On a mission in Tunisia to provide training to the Tunisian military, he was able to build a greater connection by speaking to them in French, which he learned in Togo. Someone from a more typical military background would not have been able to reach the same level of connection.
Dulce Sherman highlighted the necessity of civic engagement for minorities. She had never seen the value in personally engaging with politics or her community until Obama ran for and won the presidency.
“If no one looks like us, who’s going to speak for us?” Sherman said, to an enthusiastic response from the crowd. Sherman is currently the president of the Latino Center of the Midlands, and is a board member of several groups, including the Millard Public Schools Foundation.