After four days of experiencing the parties, the culture, the country, it’s people and their heritage, the 2019 Essence Full Circle Festival attendees had the opportunity to interact with local entrepreneurs, entertainers and government officials at the inaugural Essence Global Black Economic Forum: Africa.
ESSENCE Full Circle Festival partners included SheaMoisture, Microsoft, Conservation International and the Office of Diaspora Affairs.
Launched earlier this year at the 2019 ESSENCE Festival in New Orleans, the Africa edition of the forum welcomed roughly 200 guests to the conference hall of the Movenpick Hotel in Accra, Ghana for a day of important conversations around the work to be done beyond the year of return, including new opportunities for economic development and cultural exchange.
The breakfast session was warmly hosted by His Excellency Nana Akufo Addo, President of Ghana, who’s opening remarks were filled with intent and affirmation.
“It should be obvious to all Black people in the world by now, that their dignity and standing are intricately bound up with the dignity and standing of Africa,” he said. He further thanked members of the diaspora for heeding to his call when he declared 2019, the year of return. In closing, he made a promise to the people that prompted a roaring applause and a standing ovation.
“We will achieve the dignity and respect we deserve,” he said, addressing the packed room. “And we will do so on our own terms.”
The afternoon went on to hear from a slew of speakers who shared their own personal anecdotes, including a fireside chat with world-renowned architect Sir David Adjaye, ESSENCE Ventures Founder & Chair Richelieu Dennis and WME Executive Bozoma Saint John. Saint John particularly challenged attendees to keep the traditions of remembrance and reflection alive in the diaspora through travel.
“It is our responsibility to go back to the diaspora to make sure that no one ever forgets the power of this place,” she said during the panel.
A true highlight of the forum were the “real talk” sessions—a series of solutions-based dialogues aimed at driving an actionable agenda toward economic empowerment, cultural ownership and community investment on a global scale.
Influential voices like L’Oreal West Africa executive Sekou Coulibaly, Afrodesiac Worldwide founder Chiedza Makonnen and media executive/radio personality Ebro Darden, championed a change of mindset. Political leaders and community change agents including Mayor Latoya Cantrell, Studio One Eighty Nine creative director Abrima Ewiah, Accra Mayor Mohammed Sowah, Target executive Caroline Wanga and actor Boris Kodjoe each shared their own solution-based experiences with making full circle actions that have led to change in their communities.
Lunch break saw a beautiful display of fashion, style and culture by ethical fashion house Studio 189, who presented a capsule collection as guests watched the models walk the runway in beautiful African tie-dye cloths. Later in the afternoon, the children of the Essence Full Circle Festival attendees also brought smiles to the room as they presented their ethical business ideas to the main forum participants.
Other main stage sessions included a creative panel with filmmaker and philanthropist Juliet Asante, actress Nicole Amarteifio, entrepreneur Alvin Bekoe, media mogul Mona Scott-Young and Christie Brown executive Vanessa Bannerman, who discussed the intersection between film, music and fashion as a tool for bridging the gap between the diaspora and locales. In another inspiring conversation moderated by ESSENCE Ventures founder & chair Richelieu Dennis, Ghanaian business maven Kevin Okyere shared his secrets to success and the way forward for his oil and gas business, which also heavily participates in community outreach projects.
The inaugural Global Black Economic Forum – Africa ended on a high note, providing participants with networking opportunities to foster growth and collaboration in building sustainable businesses and partnerships as they return home.
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