The Africa Center
The Africa Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, multidisciplinary institution, provides a gateway for engagement with contemporary Africa. The Center’s work is premised on the idea that this emerging market of one billion people, characterized by extraordinary diversity and complexity, is inescapably relevant to building a prosperous, secure, and desirable future.
Minutes from the United Nations and located at One Museum Mile on Fifth Avenue adjoining Harlem in New York City, The Africa Center will operate locally and globally to transform our understanding of the world’s oldest continent, which also boasts its youngest population. Encompassing culture, policy, and business, The Africa Center promotes partnership, collaboration, dialogue and understanding between African artists, business leaders and civil society and their counterparts in the United States and beyond. The Africa Center will host visual, performing, and digital arts presentations; develop and disseminate innovative educational tools; convene focused, thoughtful peer-to-peer exchanges; and sponsor results-oriented policy research.
In its first three years of being fully operational, the Center will focus primarily on three themes that resonate particularly powerfully in New York City: urbanization, managing diversity, and empowering and engaging young people. This fertile starting ground recognizes the fact that Africa is the most rapidly urbanizing continent on the planet; home to extraordinary religious, cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and environmental diversity; and demographically is the youngest region in the world. These themes will inform our work across our three major lines of activity.
Culture: Building on its history as the Museum for African Art, the Center will be a home for exhibitions, performances and showings of visual, performing, and digital art from Africa. It will allow the continent to speak for itself. But it will be more than a venue – we aim to foster new collaborations and dialogues between African artists and those in the United States, and the African diaspora.
Policy: The Center will focus its efforts on linking research capacity with change agents on the ground in Africa, building transcontinental teams to find policy solutions. We will also work to build a broader constituency for good policy through educational initiatives that aim to bring basic “Africa literacy” to a wide range of audiences.
Business: The Center will help the private sector to navigate 53 distinct business climates, will make hard-to-obtain data available and understandable, and will facilitate peer-to-peer introductions. We will help potential partners find each other, and share best practices from the continent. The Center will also play a role in institutionalizing the content and value of the Business Forum that accompanied the U.S.-Africa Summit in August 2014.
The Center seeks a constant dialogue among these lines of effort to build a more holistic understanding of contemporary Africa and maximize the potential for inspiration and innovative new partnerships. Culture influences policy; it’s often the vanguard of social and political change. Policy enables or inhibits business. We will bring these elements together to grow the relationship between Africa, the United States, and the rest of the world.
Why Africa today?
“Africa is the new frontier for business. With unprecedented growth in the natural resources sector and the services industry, at last Africa is turning a corner. What underpins the growth story is the improvement in governance, transparency, gender and human rights over the last decade. By 2035, Africa’s labour force will be larger than China. 15 of the 20 fastest growing cities in the world between 2015 and 2020 will be African.
Today, Africa’s top trading partner is the EU followed closely by China. The US is a very distant third. That was not the case some years ago. The US needs to reconnect with Africa. That is why the Africa Center is relevant.”
Mo Ibrahim, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
Why is a building necessary?
“New York’s Africa Center commands a powerful international presence, which will draw upon the rich cultural, social and political legacy and history of the diaspora together with the inimitable cultural beat of New York, itself. This pairing is immediately captivating and will resonate with the contemporary African community and beyond. New York is a global city, which has welcomed the diaspora – and the Center is a fantastic platform from which to deliver this message to the world.”
David Adjaye, Architect
Why New York?
“This is the African century. There’s a sort of static electricity around Africa at the moment that is exciting. I think, in a way, New York would be less relevant without a piece of that. New York has always been the global crossroads and now for the first time there is a clear sign post saying ‘Africa this way’ . . . fun, educational, imaginative.
The Africa Center is great for the continent but it’s even greater for New York.”
Bono, Musician, Activist and Philanthropist
Why is a center the answer?
“Africa’s role in global affairs is expanding and deepening. New York is a great city where much of the world’s politics and business is conducted. Africa needs a strong and vibrant presence in the city. . . the Africa Center, through dialogue and debate, will promote public understanding of African issues and present African perspectives on questions of world significance. The Africa Center, which reflects the ambition and vitality of a continent on the rise, will add a new and innovative dimension to New York’s long engagement with Africa.”
Kofi Annan, Former Secretary-General, United Nations