NJ Ayuk, CEO of The Centurion Law Group, named by Forbes as one of the most powerful men in Africa, wants to ensure that the natural resources of Africa stays in the hands of Africans, both on the continent and throughout the diaspora. He is part of the Africa Energy Chamber of Commerce, whose job it is to ensure that.
“When you have uranium, gold, diamonds, oil, lithium…when you have all of that in your country and yet your country is impoverished or war-torn, that’s a problem,” said Ayuk, 38, who got his law degree and business degree in the United States. “My job is to get these resources and the knowledge of how to access these resources into the hands of people who will make sure they are used to build and grow, not destroy.”
Ayuk got his sense of purpose under the tutelage of Civil Rights pioneer, Dr. Ron Walters, who was his teacher and mentor during his days at The University of Maryland at College Park. His time with Walters, who not only taught him about the history of the struggle but also the importance of service to his people, pushed Ayuk’s purpose beyond getting an education and getting rich.
“You must understand that what we are taught in Africa about the black experience was very limited,” said Ayuk, who hails from The Cameroon and now lives in South Africa. “We learned that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a good man who wanted to bring people together. But we didn’t learn much about slavery, post Civil War, Jim Crow, lynchings, Black Wall Street, Thurgood Marshall, The Civil Rights Movement. We were taught about black America from a Eurocentric perspective. In my country, which was colonized by both the French and the British, you may even learn that black people are just like every other Americans. That’s the way the French see it. They don’t see black people as anything other than American. So I didn’t come to America understanding the history. I understand it now.”
This understanding has put Ayuk at the forefront of bridging the Africa-United States-African diaspora divide.
“Many Africans don’t even know that the majority of Africans outside of the continent are in Brazil,” he said. “We have to make that connection and we have to provide the opportunities for people of African descent around the world to benefit and create industry and wealth around these resources. The Congo itself has more natural resources than Russia, Europe and The United States combined. But who is benefitting from that wealth?”
There are billions, perhaps trillions of dollars available in the energy sector and the business sectors—from oil and gas to cocoa and coffee. Ayuk believes that Africans—particularly those in America—are best equipped to manage those resources.
“The African American is the most trained, the talented, the most educated African on the planet. Period,” said Ayuk. “Their exposure to technology, to science, to art, to public policy, their history of fighting for justice…how do you use that knowledge and power and transfer that into business? You see this talent. This talent can be utilized. It’s no longer charity to come to Africa and get involved. It’s good business.”