Van Freeman, Senior Advisor to the National Director – U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency

Van FreemanVan Freeman, Senior Advisor to the National Director

U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency

Currently, Van serves as the Senior Advisor to the National Director at Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), where he assists senior management with Agency operation; handles access to capital, access to markets, and innovation through the 44 business centers across the country; as well as facilitatingthe Agency’s strategic partnerships and spearheading Congressional and local government outreach.President Obama appointed Van Freemanto serve as a Deputy Director in the Office of the Secretary at U.S. Department of Commerce in 2013, before transitioning in to his new role withthe MBDA.

Van began his career at General Motors (GM) as a Manufacturing Engineer, eventuallymoving up to Production Supervisor at GM’s parts distribution center in Pontiac, MI.  Leveraging his business and analytical background, Van landed a position UBS Investment Bank in London, UK, as a Business Analyst in the Office of the Global General Counsel.  After time well spent in London, he joined the President Obama’s Campaign staff in Cleveland, OH, for the 2008 and 2012 election cycles, which was a critical launching point for his path into the Administration.

Van holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Morehouse College and Juris Doctorate from Southern University Law Center.  He currently resides in Washington, DC.

We welcome the support of the Empire State Development Corporation for the 2nd annual African Union Expo 2016

ibrahima-souareWe welcome the support of the New York State Empire State Development  Corporation again to the Expo this year.

Visit for more information for Merchants and general Attendees or email or phone 646-502-9778 Ext. 8002

Mr. Ibrahima S. Souare will be delivering the session titled: “Doing Business with New York State.

Ibrahima S. Souare is a native of the Francophone Republic of Guinea-Conakry. He immigrated to the United States at the age of seven with his family. Mr. Souare has spent majority of his upbringing in New York City, and speaks three languages in addition to English, which are, French, Manike, and Susu. Mr. Souare is a graduate of the City University of New York Lehman College, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.

Economic development has become a passion for Mr. Souare–and he has and continues to develop his expertise in the areas of enterprise launch planning, market expansion, and capacity building. Mr. Souare is also an instructor with New York City Department of Small Business Services where he holds seminar classes on business planning and business marketing strategies.

Currently, he is a Senior Business Development Associate with the New York State agency, Empire State Development under its Division of Minority and Women Business Development.     

Mr. Souare, outside of work, is the Director of Student Outreach for The Council of Young African Leaders. He is also a member of Sigma Phi Rho Fraternity Inc. where holds the position of National Public Relations Officer.

Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York

cuomoAndrew M. Cuomo, re-elected the 56th Governor of New York State on November 4, 2014, has a lifelong commitment to public service and the proven leadership skills to make government work for the people of the state.

Prior to his election as Governor, Andrew Cuomo served four years as New York’s Attorney General. As the state’s top legal officer, he made restoring public trust in government and protecting New York taxpayers the top priorities of his administration.

As Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo brought national reform to the student loan industry, uncovered fraud within the largest health insurers in the country, protected investors from abuses on Wall Street, and made the Internet safer for children nationwide. His groundbreaking investigations into the state pension system ended decades of government corruption in New York and set a model for public pension funds across the country. In addition, Cuomo established Housing Enterprise for Less Privileged (HELP) in 1986, which became the nation’s largest private provider of transitional housing for the homeless. Based on his pioneering work through HELP, Cuomo was appointed by New York City Mayor David Dinkins in 1991 to lead the New York City Commission on the Homeless.

In 1997, Cuomo was appointed by President Clinton to serve as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Under his leadership, HUD was transformed from a bureaucratic backwater rife with waste, fraud, and abuse to a revitalized engine for economic development and unprecedented housing opportunities. Cuomo brought dramatic reforms to make government efficient and competent while saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

As secretary, Cuomo made fighting racial discrimination a key focus and brought 2,000 anti-discrimination cases all across the country.

Andrew Cuomo’s work earned HUD the prestigious “Innovations in American Government Award” from the Ford Foundation and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University on three different occasions.

Cuomo first practiced law as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan. He has also worked as a partner in a New York City law firm and was of counsel at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson.

Cuomo graduated from Fordham University in 1979 and Albany Law School in 1982.

Together we are building on our success, working to restore economic opportunity; replace dysfunction with results; put people before politics; and reestablish New York as the progressive leader of the nation.

— Governor Andrew M. Cuomo


Christian Damiba, Director, NYC Business Solutions Upper Manhattan Center

christian-damibaMr. Christian Damiba directs the day-to-day operations of the two New York City-Business Solution Centers (Upper Manhattan and Washington Heights) managed by Harlem Commonwealth Council Always offering an approachable management style with his enthusiasm, he makes constructive critique an art and crafting a cohesive team climate a science.  Consequently, he methodically sets goals and supports his team to meet or exceed their designated targets and produce impact.


Building upon over 15 years of  experience in several key strategic business areas ( Finance, Consulting, Education), he continuously demonstrates an acute skill for expanding a market, growing revenue, and supporting best practices.   His experience includes but is not limited to: business development activities; engaging, managing, and sustaining strong customer and partner relationships; consulting; mentoring and guiding effective teams; precisely mapping and coordinating diverse internal and external company budgets and resources;  while also assessing and mitigating business risks.  As such, the NYC-Business Solutions centers managed by Harlem Commonwealth Council, Inc. greatly benefit from his training and experiences as a certified Project Management Professional (PMP); he is also  a Green Belt Certified in the Six Sigma technique of quality management and improvement.

Mr. Damiba completed a Bachelor of Business Administration at Pace University and holds an MBA from Adelphi University.


Working out of both locations, he travels regularly between the NYC-BSC locations on 181st Street in Washington Heights and 125th Street at HCC headquarters.