An Interview with Melvin P. Foote, President and Chief Executive Officer of Constituency for Africa
Many people who have worked to improve their country and the globe can be found among the Peace Corps Returned Volunteers from Ethiopia and Eritrea. Melvin P. Foote served in Eritrea and Ethiopia from 1973 to 1976 and was moved from Eritrea to Ethiopia during that time, and like many volunteers, he had a life-changing encounter that continues to have a significant impact on both his personal and professional life.
For more than 40 years, Melvin P. Foote had worked in Africa and on African concerns. He is the founder and president of the Constituency for Africa (CFA), a 25-year-old network of businesses, associations, and people in Washington, D.C., dedicated to the development and empowerment of Africa and Africans everywhere. The goal of the Constituency for Africa (CFA) is to increase public and private support for Africa and to influence U.S. policy toward the continent. The President’s Emergency Response to HIV/AIDS in Africa (PEPFAR), African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) are a few of the US government programs focused on Africa that were directly established by Melvin Foote and Constituency for Africa.
Melvin P. Foote worked as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer and instructor in Ethiopia and Eritrea from 1973 to 1976 before establishing CFA. He worked as Africare’s representative in Somalia from 1981 until 1984. He served as Director of Constituency Development at Africare’s Washington headquarters from 1984 to 1994, which resulted in the establishment of CFA. Melvin Foote took part in several high-level missions to Africa, serving on a White House delegation in 1994 to ascertain the genocide in Rwanda, as the mission’s leader in 1994 to forge a comprehensive peace agreement, on a well-known team in 1998 that decided to seek to put an end to the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea and a member of a Presidential mission to five African nations in 1998 to endorse U.S. trade with Africa and the African Growth and Opportunity Act, as the mission’s leader to forge a comprehensive peace agreement in Sudan in 2001, and the head of a mission sent to South Africa in 2003 to evaluate the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), a continental program to advance economic ties and growth.
Awards and honors
The “Order of the Lion” Award, the highest honor for public service bestowed by the government of Senegal, was given to Melvin Foote in 1998. He also received the Diggs Award for Foreign Affairs from the Congressional Black Caucus’ 2001 Annual Legislative Conference in appreciation of his exceptional dedication to and success in addressing problems and concerns relating to Africa. In addition to being a prolific writer of essays and editorials that are published in newspapers and publications throughout America, Melvin Foote is an often-sought speaker on radio and television.
To put an end to the war that had claimed about ten thousand (10,000) lives, Melvin Foote traveled to Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2010 with a representative of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers which included Hon. John Garamendi, a current California member of congress, the late Michael McCaskey, whose family owns the Chicago Bears NFL team, and Circuit Court Judge Bill Canby. The delegation met with the leaders of both major parties and pushed them to think about a way to peace.
Constituency for Africa (CFA)
Melvin P. Foote who is the President and CEO of Constituency for Africa (CFA) has for many years pioneered a widely acclaimed series of Town Hall Meetings on Africa, which have taken place in several cities and towns across the United States. Constituency for Africa (CFA) organizes the Ronald H. Brown African Affairs Series and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Annual Legislative Conference, both of which take place in Washington, D.C., in September each year. The series has persevered in offering a particular platform for Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) officials and their staff to connect with entities with an African concentration, African diplomats and government policymakers, and grassroots community leaders.
The Ronald H. Brown African Affairs Series was held in mid-September 2020 by Constituency for Africa (CFA), and one session will be of interest to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and prospective recruits. The African American Peace Corps function in the post-pandemic Peace Corps. The collection bears the name of the late Ronald H. Brown, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and US Secretary of Commerce under the Clinton administration.
Along with Dr. Darlene Grant, who was recently hired by the Peace Corps as the Senior Advisor to the President to help with the strategic development and address issues of diversity in the institution, featured presenters scheduled for the event included Congresswoman Karen D. Bass (D-CA), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and Chair of the House Sub-committee on Africa and Global Health. Sadly, Hon. Bass had to leave for a crucial meeting, but he did attend the meeting on September 18 with Dr. John Nkengasong, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to review a briefing on the COVID-19 outbreak in Africa.
The discussion was timely despite being always pertinent, but it was especially so in light of recent occurrences like the worldwide evacuation of over 7,000 Peace Corps Volunteers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the resultant Black Lives Matter demonstrations that took place in many different cities across the United States and the rest of the world. As a result of these incidents, issues of racism and diversity have come under scrutiny inside the Peace Corps as well as other branches of the United States government.
The speakers and panelists presented their thoughts and suggestions for policy reforms as the Peace Corps reemerges after the COVID-10 pandemic passes, reviewed strategies for expanding the recruitment of African Americans and other minorities and discussed ways for doing so.
Melvin P. Foote’s Interview in Ghana
On Dominion Television, Melvin P. Foote speaks with Ama K. Abebrese about his career life and journey within the Diaspora. Dominion TV; Africa’s Christian Lifestyle Network for Inspired and Empowered Living.