by: Ellen Israel Goldberg
More than 500 delegates from around the world gathered at the Sister Cities International (SCI) Africa Summit in Cape Town from February 20-24, 2023. This volunteer non-profit citizen diplomacy organization, established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, seeks to unite individuals through projects that further peace and mutual understanding.
The summit’s theme, “Transforming SCI Africa: Honoring Traditions, Creating New Partnerships”, saw sessions that touched on a range of subjects: business, education, sustainability, women’s leadership, sports diplomacy, culture, and humanitarian initiatives. Special roundtables had the presence of Consuls General, Mayors, and Ports.
Ndileka Mandela, the oldest grandchild of the late President of South Africa, graced the event as a Plenary Speaker. The Founder and CEO of the Thembekile Mandela Foundation, named in memory of her father, has health and education as its key focus areas. With a medical background and deep affection for her grandfather, Ndileka served as his nurse in his last days.
Africa, a continent of 54 nations, is emerging as a formidable force with unrealized potential. Rich in resources like gold, diamonds, oil, and titanium, the continent also boasts a young, educated population. Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston have celebrated various Africa Day events, bringing African Ambassadors to their city and initiating the first Houston-Africa Energy Summit. Leaders from the African continent and the Greater Houston area provided valuable insights to attendees.
SCI’s ambitious goal is to establish 500 new African sister cities to collaborate with American counterparts in the coming five years. Given the 54 nations in Africa, the optimism among attendees is palpable. Moreover, a pilot project is in the works between Sister Cities International and NBA Africa. Houston and Luanda are among the 5 US-African sister city pairs chosen for participation. Initiatives such as a Junior Basketball League for children aged six to 18 are in the pipeline.
But the summit wasn’t all work. Cape Town, one of the globe’s most picturesque cities, played the perfect host. The official residence of Todd Haskell, the Consul General of the US in Cape Town, was the venue for the welcome reception. With February being summertime in South Africa, attendees enjoyed warm temperatures, clear skies, and a profusion of flowers. Other receptions were equally captivating, with venues like the Castle of Good Hope, the country’s oldest building, and the Groot Constantia Winery, its oldest wine estate.
The summit concluded with a gala at the Gold Restaurant, where guests experienced a 14-dish African culinary journey. Dressed in African outfits, they relished unique performances such as Mali puppet shows, drumming lessons, and traditional singing and dancing. The ceremony paid tribute to African Elders, recognized not just for their age but their enduring commitment to African projects. The event was, indeed, a memorable affair.