AJC Launches Africa Institute

April 11, 2006 New York – The American Jewish Committee will launch next month at the organization’s Centennial Annual Meeting its latest international diplomatic initiative, the Africa Institute.


“Our vision is to bridge the gulf of understanding between Americans and the peoples and nations of Africa,” said Stanley Bergman, a member of AJC’s national board and founding chair of the Africa Institute.


Institute research and activities will focus on engaging political, business and religious leaders to deepen understanding and to identify collaborative projects. In recent months, the Institute has focused on Nigeria, the nation with the largest population in sub-Saharan Africa, with a population that is approximately fifty percent Muslim.


Bergman and Africa Institute Director Eliseo Neuman traveled to Lagos last September to meet with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, several Cabinet ministers, Foreign Ministry officials, and business and religious leaders.


Last month, AJC hosted at its New York headquarters a daylong advocacy training workshop for board members of the newly formed Nigerians in the Diaspora Organization (NIDO). There are an estimated four million Nigerians living in the U.S.


“More than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in the developing world, and the Diaspora communities from those countries now living in the U.S. will comprise about half of the U.S. population in coming decades, “ said Bergman. “As Americans, and as Jews, we have a role to play in nurturing relations with Africa, as well as to help foster relations between Israel and Africa.”


To further ties between Israel and Nigeria, the Institute arranged for Nigerian Minister Obiageli Ezekwesili to visit Israel in March, where she addressed a gala dinner in honor of AJC’s Centennial, and also met with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and officials involved with Mashav, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s technical assistance division, which in the past was active in Africa.


“Building ties with religious leaders in Africa is critically important for all who strive to achieve a more cooperative and peaceful world,” said Eliseo Neuman. On behalf of the Institute he participated in the Second World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace, which took place in Seville, Spain, last month. He met there with Muslim leaders from Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania.


The Africa Institute will be officially launched at an Annual Meeting session on May 5.

Ambassador Princeton Lyman, director of Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria and to South Africa, will moderate a panel discussion. Other panelists include Ebrahim Rasool, premier of the Western Cape Province in South Africa; Ambassador George Obiozor, Nigeria’s ambassador to the U.S. and former envoy to Israel; Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; and Yehuda Paz, chairman of the Negev Institute for Strategic Peace and Development and a veteran of Israel’s technical cooperation programs in Africa.


The Institute also will release a new book, Israeland Africa: Assessing the Past, Envisioning the Future, co-published with Tel Aviv University’s Harold Hartog School of Government and Policy.


Since its founding in 1906, AJC has been a leader in intergroup relations in the U.S. and around the world through advocacy, diplomacy and education. Establishment of the Africa Institute is an extension of this important work, which also includes the Transatlantic Institute, Asia and Pacific Rim Institute, Latino and Latin American Institute, and Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights.