Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach met Wednesday with an African cultural ambassador who came bearing a simple message: “Africa is open for business.”
Tunde Adetunji heads the Atlanta-based Africa Heritage Foundation, which has developed business ventures and technological ties between 55 nations of Africa and the state of Georgia since 1996.
Adetunji hopes to create the same ties to Africa in the Midwest that he has in Atlanta. Kansas City, he said, can be another gateway for African nations.
“This will be the center of capital, the epicenter of an African economy within the U.S.,” Adetunji said.
The ambassador and Kobach met in the Secretary of State’s Office for about 30 minutes Wednesday afternoon before speaking with a reporter.
“The objective of this,” Kobach said, “is to develop a partnership between the state of Kansas and the Africa Heritage Foundation to make Kansas one of several gateways to the United States from the African nations. They developed a gateway in Atlanta and Kansas would be the next gateway for trade and relations and study.”
For example, many African nations are yearning for agricultural developments, Kobach said, making a partnership between those nations and Kansas State University a natural fit.
“The idea is to kind of create a hub or a gateway so African nations and African companies looking to expand their footprint in the United States would come through Kansas,” he said.
At the meeting with Kobach, Adetunji was given a certificate of honor signed by Gov. Sam Brownback. The certificate stated, “It is my great privilege to hereby issue this certificate of honor to Chief Adetunji, African cultural ambassador and founder and CEO of the Africa Heritage Foundation.”
Among the foundation’s goals are uniting African nations and weaning them off their economic ties to China, which has exploited the continent, Adetunji said.
“United States is the country we should trade with,” he said. “This is the center of the world.”
In Kansas, Africans will find agricultural ingenuity, educational opportunities and advances in bioscience, Adetunji added. Africans also seek training and employment in the state’s aviation industry, he said. The ambassador anticipates Kansans with expertise in agriculture and aviation can find additional work as consultants to African companies.
“We are making history here today with this visit,” Adetunji said.
He predicted young Africans will increasingly seek secondary education opportunities in the Midwest. Kansas colleges will mold future presidents of African nations, Adetunji said. He dreams of flights from Kansas City to African capitals and of African consulates opening in Kansas City.
Adetunji’s other stops this week include a visit to the Kansas City and Wyandotte County Business Expo, a meeting with Kansas City Mayor Mark Holland, meetings with World Trade Center officials and a speech at a Kansas City church on Sunday.
“This is the fulfilling of a dream,” he said of the trip. “The state of Kansas will enjoy many benefits because of our meetings this week.”