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New York-based African Consuls form body for stronger voice

Consul General of Nigeria in New York, Mr Benaoyagha Okoyen (right at the head of the table) with his colleagues during the meeting he hosted.
Nigeria’s Consul-General in New York, Mr. Benaoyagha Okoyen

By Harrison Arubu

New York, Feb. 2020

African Consuls General in New York met for the first time on Wednesday evening and formed a body to give them a collective strong voice on issues of common interest.

The group, known as the African Consuls Group (ACG), will also serve as a platform for the envoys to foster unity and cooperation, share ideas and information, and properly engage.

Formation of the ACG was at the instance of the Consul General of Nigeria, Mr Benaoyagha Okoyen, and came during a meeting of the envoys he hosted at the Nigerian House in New York.

Other objectives of the body include promotion of cultural and economic relations with New York and between their respective countries and the United States.

It is also expected to work with the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Foreign Missions on issues, including consular access, diplomatic security, immigration and airport protocols, among others.

Membership of the ACG is automatic for current and serving African Consuls General in New York, while its Chairmanship position will be rotated among members on quarterly basis.

In his address of welcome, Okoyen who presided the meeting, emphasised the growing importance of Africa to the world on account of its abundant human and natural resources.

“With diverse political systems, economies and demographies, we remain very attractive to the world with vibrant young populations

“The world is focusing on Africa now not because Africa is bad, but because investors have a lot to gain from the continent. Africa is the next economic destination in the world,’’ he said.

The Nigerian envoy said the continent had all it needed for its growth and development, but had been stunted by several factors including lack of unity.

“If we are relating with the rest of the world we need to know ourselves better, engage properly and agree on what we want.

“We also need to come up with parameters to be used in our engagements, otherwise we would be in a disadvantaged position,’’ he said.

In separate contributions, other African envoys in attendance said the body would also enable them to properly engage with the business and African communities in New York.

The Consul General of Liberia, Mr Rudolph Sherman Jnr, said with the body, they could now effectively address issues they had been finding difficult to handle individually over the years.

Sherman highlighted them to include immigration issues and unfriendly airport protocols when receiving delegations from their respective countries into New York.

His Senegalese counterpart, Mr Elhadji Ndao, said the ACG would make the Consuls General more dynamic and visible, in addition to serving as a peer review body on best practices.

On his part, the Consul General of South Africa, Motumisi Tawana, said the formation of the group meant that African Consuls General were eager to make a difference in New York.

“We want to collaborate and ensure that our work carries weight, coordinate our activities, access services, learn and share information and best practices,’’ he said.

Other consuls general present or represented at the meeting were those of Cote D’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia and Ethiopia.

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