ITA Employee Facilitates Unveiling of the Africa Commercial Engagement Strategy

Accra Ghana The Skyview of The City Image

In 2022 Julie LeBlanc played an indispensable role as the lead Control Officer for the historic visit to Cote D’Ivoire by Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves and the U.S. Department of Commerce delegation during their participation in the Africa CEO Forum. Through this visit, Julie advanced the broader Department of Commerce and ITA goal of increasing market opportunities for U.S. companies and advancing our Africa Commercial Engagement Strategy.

The trip was also an opportunity for the Deputy Secretary to amplify the newly announced Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII). As a fluent French speaker, and the only Foreign Commercial Service Officer with in-depth knowledge of Abidjan, Julie leveraged her extensive network of contacts from her days serving as former SCO to the African Development Bank to engage at the highest levels of government.

By engaging with her outstanding connections, Julie secured meetings for the Deputy Secretary with three Heads of State—Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, and Senegal, and 20+ top business leaders from across the continent, thus furthering President Biden’s foreign policy based on the importance of partnerships, in particular on the continent. 

During this TDY in Cote D’Ivoire where the U.S. Commercial Service does not have a bilateral office, Julie LeBlanc wore multiple hats to pull off this historic visit to Africa by the Deputy Secretary. Fortunately, Julie had an outstanding working relationship with the U.S. Ambassador to Cote D’Ivoire who welcomed her into the Country Team to keep embassy contacts abreast of all details on the visit. A testament to Julie’s interpersonal skills, the Management team, Diplomatic Security, the Econ team, and the Deputy Chief of Mission all joined forces to support Julie during her six-week TDY in country to advance the Deputy Secretary’s visit and serve as overall Control Officer.

As logistics for the visit became more and more complex with several movements and the U.S. (multi-agency) delegation split between multiple hotels, we deployed an LE Admin Assistant from Morocco to add to Julie’s “one-person” advance team. Julie was able to train and guide this relatively new employee on the spot turning the detail into a professional development experience for our Moroccan colleague.

Results: Meetings for the Deputy Secretary with three Heads of State—Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, and Senegal, and meetings with 20+ top business leaders from across the continent in addition to meetings with the leadership of the African Development Bank. Julie also facilitated panel discussions for the Deputy Secretary at the Africa CEO Forum. Finally, Julie worked with State’s Regional Media Hub and the U.S. Department of Commerce press office to arrange digital media coverage by international press.