By Neal St. Anthony
Hiiraan Xog, African diplomats will talk business Friday with Minnesota business-and-trade officials at a private luncheon at the University Club of Saint Paul in connection with the 30th anniversary of St. Paul-based Books for Africa.
That evening at the Nicollet Island Pavilion, Arikana Chihombori-Quao, ambassador of the Embassy of the African Union, will address the anniversary gala to celebrate past accomplishments and encourage deeper cultural-and-commercial ties.
“Despite the talk about Chinese investment in Africa, America remains our preferred partner,” Chihombori-Quao and Jote Taddese, an Ethiopian native who is a senior IT advisor at Medtronic and president of the Books For Africa Board, said in a recent statement. “In Minnesota, we have the largest Somali-American community in the country. A large Ethiopian community” as well as Liberians, Nigerians and Kenyans.
“They run businesses, do business in Africa, work for Minnesota companies that do business in Africa… Mobilizing the diaspora holds the key to our success.”
Since 1988, when it was founded by Minnesota business owner Tom Warth, Books for Africa has sent 44 million school books, medical, law, agriculture and other books to every African country.
CEO Patrick Plonski said Books for Africa will send 3.1 million books valued at over $30 million to Africa this year.
Minnesota exported $172 million in technology and other products to African countries in 2017, a fraction of the $21 billion in total exports to countries such as Canada, Mexico and China.
The late Kofi Annan, the former general secretary of the United Nations and a Macalester College graduate, remarked that the book donations had a disproportionate impact on the young people of many African countries because education and a commitment to rule of law are two key ingredients to development of democracy.