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Rosa Whitaker is the CEO and President of the Whitaker Group, a Washington, D.C.-based consultancy specializing in trade and investment in Africa. She previously served as the first ever Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa in the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. In this capacity, she developed and implemented the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and other bilateral and multilateral trade policy initiatives towards Africa. In 2010, Whitaker was named one of Foreign Policy's Top 100 Global Thinkers.
Whitaker was born in Washington, D.C. and holds Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from American University in Washington, D.C. and has completed studies in the United Kingdom and Italy as well as at the Foreign Service Institute. She is often on the public speaking circuit and has lectured at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the National Defense University. In April 2008, Whitaker married Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams, overseer of Christian Action Faith Ministries Worldwide.
As a career diplomat, Whitaker served in Africa and the State Department's Office of International Energy Policy. She served as the Executive Director of the Washington, D.C. Office of International Business, initiating projects to support Africa’s business development.
Before joining the US Office of the Trade Representative in the Executive Office of the President of the United States where she worked closely with current World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick and Ambassador Josette Sheeran, current Executive Director of the World Food Program. Rosa Whitaker was Senior Trade Policy Adviser to Congressman Charles Rangel, the current Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee. In that position, she was one of the hands-on architects of AGOA and helped develop the Africa Trade and Investment Caucus in Congress. She was responsible for advising Congressman Rangel on a broad range of issues related to the World Trade Organization, Africa, China and global competitiveness.
Whitaker started the United States Trade Representative's Office of African Affairs and was the lead U.S. negotiator for trade agreements with African countries. Under her leadership, the U.S. was credited with a string of initiatives to enhance American trade, investment and economic cooperation with African countries. According to the Los Angeles Times, the contacts she made while in this job helped establish the basis for her future career.
After leaving USTR in 2003, Whitaker launched the Whitaker Group (TWG), a consultancy focused on bringing trade and investment to Africa and assisting African countries to maximize tangible trade and investment gains from AGOA and related initiatives. Since its launch, TWG has represented several African countries including Uganda, Ghana, Lesotho, Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria and has worked with numerous others on a host of trade, investment and health issues. The consultancy also works with a number of US corporations with business interests in Africa. In late 2008, TWG opened an office in Accra, Ghana.
Beginning in 2006, Whitaker expanded TWG's sphere of interest to include health issues in Africa. Working with the Global Health Progress initiative, she seeks to develop partnerships between governments and the private sector with the goal of strengthening African health systems.
As the co-chair with the late Congressman Jack Kemp of the AGOA Action Committee, Whitaker has remained at the forefront of efforts to strengthen AGOA and ensure its relevance in the ever changing landscape of world trade.
Whitaker has received numerous honors, including the 2001 Africa-America Institute Award for Promoting U.S.-Africa Trade Relations and the Annual Achievement Award from the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel in 2000. In 2002, she was named Woman of the Year in International Trade by the Association of Women in International Trade and, in 2003, was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Trade by the Consumers for World Trade.
In 2008 Bennett College named her a Woman with the Audacity to Excel, along with civil rights pioneer Dr. Dorothy Height and three other African-American women leaders. In June 2009, Whitaker was given the Business Leadership Award by the Nigerian Higher Education Foundation.
Foreign Policy (FP) Magazine, the premiere, award-winning magazine of global politics and economics, honored Whitaker as one of its Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2010. She was joined on the list by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffett, who shared a headline for their leadership in fighting global health and development challenges, World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick and former International Monetary Fund head, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, among others. Mo Ibrahim, founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation which awards prizes to African leaders for good governance, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Judge Unity Dow of Botswana, advocate for women’s rights and the rights of indigenous peoples, represented additional African perspectives.
Rosa Whitaker is a member of the Executive Board of Mercy Ships, a faith-based charity that has for the past 20 years operated hospital ships in developing nations. She serves on the Board of the Bethune-Du Bois Fund, a scholarship program for minority students created in honor of Mary McLeod Bethune and W. E. B. Du Bois. She joined the Executive Board of the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) in 2010. She has served as vice chair of the U.S.-South Africa Business Council.
Whitaker is also a guest columnist for AllAfrica.com.