Ambassador 5 ||Cynthia Blandford spills secrets on building an African & Caribbean trade dynasty
The historical ties between the Caribbean region and the continent of Africa are undeniable. And no-one knows this better than Ms. Cynthia Blandford. As the Honorary Consul General to Liberia in Georgia (the first black woman in this role I might add), she represents the government of the first and oldest Republic in Africa. It is a role that she does not take lightly.
Her spirit is definitely one of a pioneer; one who is willing to take on and overcome any challenge that faces her. It’s a spirit reminiscent of the freed slaves who re-settled in Liberia back in 1822. Seems like its a country that leaves an indelible mark once you touch its’ soil-Ms. Blandford’s resume is testimony to this. In addition to holding the prestigious consulate title, she is also the President and CEO of Global Strategies for Good, LLC, a resource development and relationship management firm specializing in international business-to-business matchmaking, fundraising and travel and tourism.
Right now you may be curious as to what do all these things have to do with the Caribbean? Well, Ms. Blandford is also one of the co-founders of the Organization of African and Caribbean Consular Corps of Georgia. This organization unites the fourteen (14) African and Caribbean consulates in Georgia around a singular mission of representing their respective countries on matters of trade, travel and tourism. Her vision for the Consular Corps is one of unity, strength and progressiveness as both the African and Caribbean regions find ways to collaborate.
- What is the impetus for starting the Organization of African and Caribbean Consular Corps of Georgia?
- Ms. Blandford acknowledged the historical bond between Africa, the Caribbean and the United States of America as the obvious starting point for a relationship among these regions. She noted the ability of certain regions to mobilize and unify when it comes to trade, travel and tourism such as Latin America, Asia and Europe. For her, that is a good model for African and Caribbean regions to follow because they also have so much to offer.
- A few years ago Ms. Blandford led a brainstorming session, in collaboration with the Consul General for Haiti & the Dean of the Consular Corps (Mr. Gandy Thomas), and the Ambassador & Consul General for Nigeria ( Mr. Geoffery Teneilabe), on how these regions can find points of cooperation. She noted that there are over seventy (70) Consular countries represented in the state of Georgia, with fourteen (14) being from Caribbean and African Consulates. With those numbers, it made sense to forge alliances for bigger impact. One of the main questions the team tried to answer with their strategic plan is, ‘how do we increase trade between the islands, US and Africa to take advantage of the unique opportunities that this alliance offers?’ Learn more in video
- What do you see as some additional benefits of building stronger trade relationships between Caribbean and African nations?
- In Ms. Blandford’s view, meetings with big corporations such as Wal-Mart, Hartsfield Jackson International Airport and the Georgia Ports Authority require the Caribbean and African regions to have a collective voice in order to get their desired outcomes. These big businesses are accustomed to block voting, and
a unified strong voice will help our respective regions garner our due respect. This is important to carry out various missions such as increasing trade and economic development. In her opinion, organization and a unified voice signals to the businesses and the world at large that the Consulate offices are serious about the work that they do for their countries. Learn more in video
- So let’s take a step back. You have taken on a very big mission-tell us a bit about what inspired your journey into the diplomatic service?
- Blandford was exposed to African studies at a very early age. Her mother worked at Cornell University where the Africana curriculum was one of the first of its kind in the United States. That early exposure inspired a desire within her to see the world, travel, make a difference and change the world. At the age of eighteen (18), an opportunity opened up for her via the Rotarians and she left Ithica for Liberia to teach in an elementary school and also attend the University of Liberia for 2 semesters. That was the start of a journey that opened the doors to connections that altered her entire life. Learn more in video
- If you woke up tomorrow and could make one game-changing decision to move the agenda forward of the Consular Corps what would it be?
For her, an investment in young people is the future of the Consular Corps.
- She mentions that with the many emerging economies who are just becoming known in the world economy, Consular offices should be asking themselves the question, ‘how do we bring young people along with us?’. To her, Consular offices should become training grounds for future diplomats and world leaders. Training in the areas of diplomatic service, conflict resolution and superior customer service. She cites the example of the fifteen (15) + interns hired in her office over the past year as a place where she is determined to start changing the dynamic and the vision that young people have about the world. Learn more in video
- And taking it forward, what would be a road map for young women interested in this career?
- Her advice is simple-Be courageous. She uses her own story as an example of how many possibilities exists and are open to the young people who are willing and open to new experiences. She came from a humble background starting in Ithica , New York and rose through the ranks to represent a Head of State in Georgia. In her words; ‘Dream big, hope big. My office is open for any young person.’ Learn more in video
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MISSION: To elevate the brand of Caribbean culture in the fields of MUSIC, BUSINESS and the ARTS by celebrating the work of cultural ambassadors while advocating for upcoming Caribbean talent1.