President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday the inaugural members of the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement in the United States. During the 2022 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the Biden-Harris administration said it was establishing this Council to work towards the prosperity of the African continent and its people and strengthen the unique relationship between the U.S. and Africa.
The Council is made up of 12 members including Rosalind Brewer of Georgia, Chinenye Joy Ogwumike of Texas, and Rev. Dr. Silvester Scott Beaman, who will serve as Chair of the Council. The members were appointed by the Secretary of State and the Council represents the diversity of the African Diaspora from African American communities around the U.S. and immigrants across Africa and the Caribbean, the White House said in a statement.
Members of the council are people who have made a mark in government, business, sports, creative industries, academia, social work, and faith-based activities.
Ghanaian American Deniece Laurent-Mantey is the new appointed Executive Director of the inaugural Council. The Bronx, New York native and former Director of Africa at the White House will see to it that the Council members “provide invaluable guidance to reinforce cultural, social, political, and economic ties between the U.S. and Africa, and promote trade, investment, and educational exchanges between the United States and Africa,” the White House statement said.
According to the African Union, the African Diaspora is composed of “people of African origin living outside of the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality, and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union.”
The African Diaspora in the United States is made up of African Americans, including descendants of enslaved Africans, and almost two million African immigrants who have close familial, social, and economic connections to the continent, according to the White House. The community has been making significant contributions to America’s growth and prosperity over the years. During the African and Diaspora Young Leaders Forum last year, Vice President Kamala Harris announced the creation of the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement in the United States. Biden subsequently issued an executive order (EO) directing the Secretary of State to establish the Council to improve the dialogue between U.S. officials and the African Diaspora.
Laurent-Mantey was the policy architect behind the creation of the Council. Presently the Executive Director of the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement in the United States and the senior State Department representative for the U.S.- Africa Leaders Summit, Laurent-Mantey previously served as the Director for Africa at the White House National Security Council from April 2021 to February 2023. In that role, she served as the leader of nearly 20 U.S. government agencies while working to ensure that Biden’s priorities for the 2022 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit were being implemented.
Ahead of the Summit, Laurent-Mantey helped generate $15 billion in new commitments to support trade and investment across Africa. Thanks to her efforts, there was also a $55 billion commitment to help advance U.S.-Africa shared priorities over the next three years.
Laurent-Mantey, who grew up with connections to both the U.S. and Ghana, started her career at the U.S. Department of State in 2008, subsequently becoming a member of the Secretary of State’s policy planning staff, where she provided U.S.-Africa policy recommendations to the Secretary of State.
From 2014 to 2019, she was Acting Deputy Director and Desk Officer in the Bureau of African Affairs. Before that, Laurent-Mantey served as Special Assistant to Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry; and Staff Assistant and intern in the Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Science; the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; and the Bureau of African Affairs from 2008 to 2012.
A recipient of two Department of State Superior Honor Awards and two Meritorious Honor Awards, Laurent-Mantey was named one of the Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD) in 2018.
The married mother of three has an MA in African Studies and Public Policy from Howard University and a BA in International Relations from Syracuse University. As Special Advisor on the U.S. Africa’s Leaders Summit Implementation at the U.S. State Department, Laurent-Mantey participated in the Mastercard Foundation Incredible Africans session at the Unstoppable Africa Summit during the United Nations General Assembly on Friday in New York. The session celebrated young African women trailblazers making significant contributions to the African continent while challenging preconceived notions of the continent.
Laurent-Mantey said during the session “The currency of our generation is Africa’s innovation. People are now beginning to embrace Africa’s culture, its diversity, and its heritage. But the key thing is that we have to protect that ownership. We have to do what we can to tell our story.”