Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks is leading a delegation of county officials, business leaders, educators, and others on a seven-day business mission to Phokeng in the Royal Bafokeng Nation of South Africa. Organized by the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation, the visit is a reaffirmation of the sister-city relationship and the first business mission for the County since Alsobrooks took office in 2018.
“This is a common practice. Just as other places around the country take these trips to develop economic growth and cultural exchanges, we are doing the same for Prince George’s County,” Alsobrooks explained.
The visit “will potentially open opportunities for Prince George’s businesses, as well as showcase opportunities our County and region have to offer our South African counterparts,” she added.
Prior ceremonies establishing the Sister City relationship have occurred in Prince George’s County. This time, the signing ceremony will take place in South Africa.
Glenda Wilson, a former administration official, reflected that when Alsobrooks was an education liaison when she took her first trip to Bafokeng in 2003. “Now she’s going back as the County Executive. That’s pretty amazing,” Wilson said.
A temporary Sister City MOU was initially signed in 1998 by Queen Mother Semane Bonolo Molotlegi and County Executive Wayne K. Curry in South Africa. In 2001, County Executive Curry signed a permanent MOU in Prince George’s County with the present king, Kgosi Leruo Tsekedi Molotlegi, according to a press release.
The Royal Bafokeng Nation, which is approximately 2,000 sq kilometers with a population of about 200,000, has business opportunities in numerous industries such as transportation, IT, and construction. It is also home to the world’s second-largest reserve of platinum, as well as Rustenberg gray granite.
County business representatives from 15 industries are attending the trip, including transportation, IT, health care, education, film-making, and finance. Additionally, the County Executive is accompanied by several senior members of her administration, including her Chief Administrative Officer, Deputy Chief of Staff who leads intergovernmental affairs, and Director of Communications. Others include the CEO of PGCPS, Council Chair, and Executive Director of the Arts and Humanities Council.
Alsobrooks acknowledged that 40 percent of the small businesses in the County are African-owned. And, for the first time, three recently elected county councilmembers are African immigrants or Africans born in America.
In years past, the County sent school supplies and books to support schools in the region. Additionally, during King Leruo’s visit to Prince George’s, his delegation visited Eleanor Roosevelt and Suitland High Schools and developed their premier school, Lebone–College of the Royal Bafokeng, after the arts and curriculum offered to PGCPS students. In 2003 the Prince George’s County government, in collaboration with the National Council on Negro Women, took 12 County youth to the Royal Bafokeng Nation, and brought youths back from South Africa.
“There are so many similarities that remind me of Prince George’s,” said Dorothy Bailey, a former chair of the County Council who is also traveling with the delegation. She visited Phokeng with the delegation that traveled with Curry. She said she observed the people of Bafokeng’s “determination to hold onto their land, our determination in Prince George’s County that we were not going to be ignored, and our determination to participate in this County in the fashion we want to participate. The tenacity and determination of the people there reminded me of Prince George’s County.”
Since 1956, Sister Cities International has promoted global relationships based on cultural, educational, information, and trade exchanges. The results, SCI suggests, are participants develop lifelong friendships that provide prosperity and peace through person-to-person “citizen diplomacy,” according to the website.
“We look forward to this business mission and for the opportunity to re-affirm our longstanding Sister City relationship with the Bafokeng Nation,” said Alsobrooks. “The visit to this South African nation, rich in resources and culture, as well as meetings in various parts of South Africa, will potentially open opportunities for Prince George’s businesses, as well as showcase opportunities our County and region have to offer our South African counterparts.”