NEW YORK – More than a thousand prominent African-American leaders, executives, entertainers and activists will head to Tanzania for a summit with their African counterparts to help raise living standards on the world's poorest continent.
Organizers said Monday that U.S. participants in the Sullivan Summit next month will include executives from the Coca-Cola Co., General Electric, Chevron Corp. and Procter and Gamble. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, comedian Chris Tucker and professional basketball player Kelenna Azubuike also plan to attend.
"This is kind of a poor man's African Davos," said summit co-chairman Andrew Young, referring to the annual economic forum in the Swiss mountain resort. "It's a potpourri of ideas and projects and our efforts to respond to the needs of Africa."
Young, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and mayor of Atlanta, said the meeting will focus on topics ranging from climate change and energy needs to jobs for young people, improving health care and coping with rising food prices.
The June 2-6 gathering in Arusha, Tanzania will give American businesses "a good sounding board as to what ideas and what products, and frankly what countries, are most susceptible and ready for investment" in Africa, he added.
There are 4.5 million African-Americans whose ancestors came to the United States during the slave trade and more than 5 million Africans who have come to the U.S. since 1970 as students or political refugees, Young said.
Tanzania's U.N. Ambassador Augustine Mahiga called the summits serve as "a bridge over the Atlantic, connecting Africa and the Americas — a multipurpose bridge ... (to) serve political, technical and economic ends."
"It is time to address the problems of poverty, ignorance and diseases with the help of the Americans — African-Americans who left the continent in disarray, in chaos, as slaves — and it is a time to rekindle the roots and the bones of a common origin and a new era of solidarity," Mahiga said.
The summits began in 1991 and were the brainchild of Rev. Leon H. Sullivan, a civil rights crusader who called for companies doing business in South Africa to give opportunities to their black workers — an initiative that helped end apartheid.