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Arizona Rising to the Occasion
by Mitchell M
US / Africa Energy Ministers Conference

Tucson, AZ •• Dec. 15, 1999 •• SolarQuest® iNet News Service •• As a college senior representing one of this country’s great HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), Coppin StateCollege, I considered it an honor to serve the iNet News team. iNet established a team of students to cover the U.S.-African Ministers Energy Conference here in Tucson, Arizona. Arizona, a state that only recently adopted the Martin Luther King holiday, extended a warm, welcoming hand to more than forty Energy Ministers, many accompanied by extensive council, from the continent of Africa. Forty-six countries from Algeria to Zambia are represented here. The conference has been a well received, very cordial, and boasted as very productive.

Minutes after arriving to the headquarters of the convention to report on the conference events, I came face to face with the city’s newly elected mayor, The Honorable Robert E. Walkup (R). The mayor expressed the city’s enthusiasm to welcome the conference, and conveyed that they share with the delegates the position of being faced with a crucial environmental problem. Current estimates indicate that within the next 10 years some 1.2 million people will reside in Tucson but the city is running short on its water supply. The mayor is proposing plans to offer incentives for citizens to cut back on their water usage, but is met with the obstacle that the city refuses to believe the problem exist.

The city of Tucson won the bid for the convention, beating out many of the cities on the east-coast. This is the second time a conference such as this has been held in the U.S. The first was held in Washington, DC. All who I have interviewed thought the location was a good choice. “The setting is a good place to do business. Its conference headquarters, with its great service and accommodations made for the perfect host,” stated Minister Babi Mbayi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When asked if the conference should be held in Africa, the minister said, “Location is not the issue here, finding a good place to come together to address these problems is what is important.”

Herman S. “Woody” Dorsey, Jr., President emeritus, and current board member of the American Association of Blacks in Energy, summed up the conference’s tone as: upscale, positive, a deal friendly. During a lengthy interview, Mr. Dorsey discussed all sides of the conference candidly. He described the meeting between he and representatives of Africa as very trusting, adding Arizona’s warm and open atmosphere has provided a good climate for friendly and sincere deal making.

Mohamed Ali Mohamed, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of Djibouti, emphatically stated: “Never let us lose sight of why we are here. Certainly the whether is very beautiful, and the atmosphere is pleasant, but we have come here to do business.” Mr. Dorsey agreed with this statement and reinforced that the focal points of the meetings were to first to establish trust.

Later, while meeting with Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, the man instrumental in bringing national attention to the conference, he explained the role government plays in making sure the deals between the private sector and the African countries are of a sound base. Secretary Richardson explained that the government has an interest in seeing the interest of both parties secured. Yet, their seemed to be more skepticism on the part of the African delegates, than that of the United States private sector. Time after time the ministers proclaimed their goal was to acquire trade and not aide. Most of the ministers felt the conference was by all account productive.

The overall perception was the conference is successful and, thanks to the warmth and receptive manner of the citizens of Tucson, most comfortable. So kudos to Arizona for rising to the occasion and new heights!

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