Ibrahim Dabo: You have been working diligently towards Re-Think Africa. Please tell us what this initiative is all about.
Jorge Castillo: Passport Health decided to shift the focus of the networking event to Africa because we see the great opportunities that Africa has to offer. In today’s economy it is crucial to build relationships with emerging economies such as Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Cameroon and South Africa just to name a few. We are working with organizations that promote business opportunities in African nations.
Organizations such as the Maryland Sister State Program which is part of the international division for Maryland’s Secretary of State establish the connections that make business opportunities happen. On a local level we are currently working with Maryland’s Department of Business and Economic Development which promotes business in Maryland and encourages companies to do business in the State. We have been noticing the trend. Walmart is considering an African expansion through the purchases of Massmart, a 290-store chain operating in 13 African nations. http://tinyurl.com/27erl28. It is evident that the African continent continues to open up. It has also had a robust bounce-back from the global recession http://tinyurl.com/2flkjme and it is the only continent which experienced a growth in international arrivals in 2010 (4% increase) while Europe, Asia and the Americas saw a decreases (double digits in some instance)
Ibrahim Dabo: Who are the main organizers involved in putting this event together?
Jorge Castillo: Passport Health worked alongside Loyola University Maryland, DAASN and the Africa Travel Association. Several sponsors have made this possible including Sanofi Pasteur, Travisa, Raptim Travel, Costco Travel and MTS Travel. There are many more sponsors that I would like to acknowledge so please visit www.rethinkafrica.net for the full list.
Ibrahim Dabo: As Corporate Director of Business Development and Marketing at Passport Health, the nation’s largest private provider of travel medical services and immunizations, tell us why your organization found it important to play a major role with the idea of Rethink Africa?
Jorge Castillo: I have always had a passion for being ahead of the curve and so has my CEO. Passport Health needs to stay true to one of our missions: “To be active members of our professional, global and regional communities.” Creating and organizing this event fits within our larger global leadership responsibility. Passport Health prepares international travelers for their travels. We provide country specific counseling and administer vaccines that may be required or recommended for their travel destination(s). We also provide our clients with supplies such as anti malaria medications, water purifying systems, and wound care kits among other travel supplies. We also partner with international travel insurance carriers and visa expeditors. By keeping our clients healthy during their business, leisure or mission trips to Africa we can ensure that their objectives in the country will not fail on account of poor health. The money spent in Africa will stimulate the African economy, new business partnerships can be created and mission outreach projects will be more successful.
Ibrahim Dabo: There are often mixed perceptions about Africa as continent marred by disease and violence for example, but there are many good things happening there as well. What do you hope to achieve by staging Re-Think Africa on October 12?
Jorge Castillo: Rethink Africa has three main goals:
- Shift the paradigm and reshape the perception of Africa
- Expose business leaders to economic development opportunities in the continent
- Connect public and private sectors with business leaders and potential international travelers
By pursuing all of the above goals, we want to showcase that Africa is a versatile continent that has endless opportunities and that its countries are great destinations for business travelers as well as leisure travelers. A vacation in Africa is often more affordable and exciting than visiting some of the European nations. Have you ever seen the beautiful beaches of Ghana, Benin, Togo Senegal and The Gambia? Have you been mesmerized by the “Mosi oa-Tunya” (“the smoke that thunders”) whilst visiting Victoria Falls in the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia? Have you tasted the gorgeous wines of South Africa or watched the sun disappear behind Malawi’s impressive sunsets? These are all magnificent sites that many people do not even know exist. We intend to make people Rethink Africa.
Ibrahim Dabo: This event will also serve as a fundraiser. Where will the funds be directed?
Jorge Castillo: All proceeds will benefit help There Goes my Hero foundation and the Carson Scholars Funds. Both are 501C3 charitable organizations. There Goes my Hero provides nourishing meals and support to those fighting leukemia and their families—as well as raising awareness for and increasing the size of the bone marrow registry. The Carson Scholar Funds grants scholarships to gifted students grades 4-11 who had at least a 3.75 grade point average and demonstrated strong humanitarian qualities. There will be an international bone marrow registry station at the event. Guests can register with a simple cheek swab. A simple swab can save someone’s life.
Ibrahim Dabo: Hosting such events always come along with positive attributes, not only limited to raising awareness about relevant issues, but also raising funds for worthy causes, as it is in your case. So what happens after October 12, are we going to be seeing more of similar events?
Jorge Castillo: Rethink Africa on October 12th is the first of many events to come. We are planning on being able to customize events to specific African nations and so promote travel and business to specific countries. We will continue to work with the charitable organizations to also help with their mission. Nevertheless, we can’t shift the paradigm by ourselves. We need expats, diaspora members, business leaders, volunteers and everyone to be involved.
We have provided an exclusive discount for the readers of the IB’s blog. By entering code “DABO” you will save 60% off your ticket to Rethink Africa and support these important organizations. Here is how:
3. Enter special code “DABO”
4. Discount Applies to regular price only
5. Print your ticket and get ready for the networking event of the year.
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