The 1800 block of Martin Luther King Avenue in southeast D.C. used to be filled with merchants selling carpet remnants, used refrigerators and low-cost furniture.

But Thursday, inside of a towering building owned by the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation, a delegation of female business owners from 35 African nations talked about forging partnerships with business leaders from the D.C. region.

“They built a $400 million bridge next to this building — we have to think about opportunities beyond this community,” said Stan Jackson, president of the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation, which co-hosted the event with the U.S. Department of State and others.

African Female Business Owners Seek Trade Opportunities in D.C.

Ana Harvey, director of the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development, talked of how she went from owning a small language-translation business to being a White House appointee for President Obama.

“I didn’t go to business school, I just knew that I needed money,” Harvey said.

Delegation members from Nigeria, Togo, Mali and other African nations listened intently as Anacostia business owners Anika Hobbs of Nubian Human, Angela Johnson of Plum Good LLC and Lafayette Barnes of Zulu Global Enterprises LLC talked about their respective trading opportunities on the continent.

“This is a global world and we have all the opportunities,” said Barnes, who couldn’t resist making a pitch for his wife, Washington Informer publisher Denise Rolark Barnes, since he was the only male speaker at the event.

Loretta Caldwell, president and CEO of L.S. Caldwell & Associates Inc. in Northwest, also spoke during the event.

Janice Viera, president of JDOS International, a D.C. firm that specializes in infrastructure engineering, praised the women for dispelling myths and stereotypical fears about Africa such as lion sightings and monkey attacks.

“I went to Africa and it was the best thing that I have ever done in my life,” she said.

LeNina Codjo, a delegation member from the West Africa nation of Togo, said times are changing for African women and there are many opportunities to become global leaders.

“I am very hopeful for the young African women,” Codjo said. “Today there are many eyes turning to Africa, especially to African women. They are very courageous, inspiring and I hope by giving them a chance they can improve their business skills and help society.”

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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