Each year, delegations from Africa meet with officials and business leaders in the US for the African Global Economic and Development (AGED) Summit.
This year’s event took place at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.
But unfortunately, one crucial aspect was missing from the summit – any Africans.
None of the invited delegates were able to attend, due to being denied a visa at the very last minute.
Visa issues are not uncommon for people traveling from African nations. During her prior three summits, Mary Flowers, summit chair, saw a high percentage of her attendees at the African Global Economic and Development Summit, unable to attain visas.
“Usually we get 40 percent that get rejected but the others come,” said Flowers, chair of the African Global Economic and Development Summit. “This year it was 100 percent. Every delegation. And it was sad to see, because these people were so disheartened.”
She estimated that around 100 guests, from Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and South Africa, were unable to attend.
According to Flowers, many who had applied for their visas weeks or months in advance were only called for embassy interviews days before they were supposed to travel.
“I have to say that most of us feel it’s a discrimination issue with the African nations,” said Flowers. “We experience it over and over and over, and the people being rejected are legitimate business people with ties to the continent.”
Prince Kojo Hilton, a graphic artist from Ghana, was due to lead a session on filmmaking, but was denied a visa four days before he was supposed to travel.
VOA reports that Diane E. Watson, former member of Congress from California, called the State Department to question the denial of visas for the USC summit delegates.
However, she was told that the State Department could not discuss individual visa cases.
Donald Trump’s ‘travel ban’ only applies to three African countries, Libya, Somalia and Sudan, therefore it’s unclear as to why there has been such an increase in rejected visa applications from the continent.