Visa hitch forces cancellation of US-Africa energy summit

New York

A US-Africa energy summit scheduled for later September has been cancelled after African invitees were denied US visas, organisers said on Wednesday.

A notice to prospective attendees said the fully booked two-day event would not take place “because of the denial of US visas to the vast majority of registered African participants, which, as a result, defeated the purpose of the summit and made it untenable”.

Olivier Kamanzi, the Rwandan head of the Chicago-based Africa Global Chamber of Commerce, was among the scheduled speakers at the summit set to take place in Madison, the capital of the state of Wisconsin.

The ambassadors to the US from Botswana, Ghana and South Africa were also listed as speakers, along with the coordinator of former President Obama’s Power Africa programme.

TRUMP POLICY

“This is part of a broad policy of the Trump administration to deny, stall and obstruct visa requests regardless of their source,” said Samba Baldeh, a native of Gambia and an elected official in Madison.

“These denials are for everyone, from visits from a member of an immediate family, to former heads of state.”

The inability of most invitees from Africa to obtain US visas “squandered a great opportunity for energy-deprived nations to work with advanced energy providers of the US and Wisconsin,” Mr Baldeh added in comments reported by the Wisconsin State Journal.

“This policy isolated the US from the business and culture of the rest of the world.”

Another US-Africa summit scheduled to be held in California in March was also cancelled because none of the 60 African government and business leaders were able to obtain visas.

GLOBAL CONFERENCE

Three previous African Global Economic and Development conferences went ahead despite denial of visas to about 40 percent of participants who would have travelled from Africa, lead organiser Mary Flowers told Voice of America.

“This year it was 100 percent. Every delegation. And it was sad because these people were so disheartened,” Ms Flowers noted.

“I have to say that most of us feel it is a discrimination issue with the African nations,” she added.

“We experience it over and over and over, and the people being rejected are legitimate business people with ties to the continent.”

Responding to a query from Nation, the State Department said Thursday that “visa applications are not automatically denied. Each visa application is considered individually and in accordance with US law.”

A department official added that “the US welcomes travellers for tourism and business.”

The official did not comment on the issue of Africans prevented from attending conferences in the US, saying, “Since visa records are confidential under the Immigration and Nationality Act, we are not able to discuss specific visa cases.”

Another US-Africa summit scheduled for March 2017 was also cancelled.

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