Each year, delegations from Africa traditionally meet with officials and business leaders in the United States 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 African delegates was able to attend, due to being denied a visa at the very last minute.
Mary Flowers, chair of the summit, told VOA that during the previous three summits around 40 per cent of attendees were denied visas.
“This year, it was 100 per cent. Every delegation. And it was sad to see, because these people were so disheartened.
She estimated that around 100 guests, from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and South Africa, were unable to attend.
“I have to say that most of us feel it’s a discrimination issue with the African nations. We experience it over and over and over, and the people being rejected are legitimate business people with ties to the continent.
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.
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.
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.
President 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.