Time is now of the essence regarding the Africa-Africa Diaspora partnership as the continent appears poised to become an important destination of global prosperity in the coming decades. The community of Africans that unwillingly left the shores of the continent hundreds of years ago and those that left willingly since early 20th century will likely play a decisive role in the anticipated Africa’s renaissance of the 21st century. If Africans in the Diaspora will do for Africa what the Chinese and India Diasporas have done in the recent social, economic and technological development of China and India, respectively, the Africa-Africa Diaspora partnership must now move towards definitive, action steps capable of making decisive impacts. In this regard, the forthcoming Africa-Africa Diaspora high-level meeting in South Africa in May provides a unique opportunity to jumpstart the Africa-Africa Diaspora partnership. Needed Specific Action Steps Three important over-arching action steps are critical in moving forward the Africa-Africa Diaspora partnership.
First, is the need for Africa and its Diaspora to agree on areas of collaboration and partnership. Second, is the need to organize the Africa-Africa Diaspora partnership. Third, is the need to begin the implementation of specific programs as part of confidence building efforts.
It is important to note that Africa must take the lead role in the partnership as African Diaspora communities get better organized. Need for Africa and its Diaspora to agree on areas of collaboration and partnership African governments under the aegis of the AU need to reach an understanding with African’s in the Diaspora, perhaps, as early as the May 2012 Africa-Africa Diaspora high-level meeting on the following issues:
A) Policy collaboration especially on bilateral and multilateral issues, South-South initiatives and poverty alleviation;
(B) Economic and Trade collaboration at bilateral and multilateral levels, South-South initiatives, remittances, private sector networks;
(C) Intellectual Capacity collaboration on health, education, agriculture, transportation, telecommunication, rural electrification and information technology with emphasis on scientific exchanges and partnerships, twinning arrangements between universities and other institutions of higher learning, joint project partnerships and professional collaborative efforts, including volunteer efforts by dedicated African Diaspora professionals;
(D) Civil Society collaboration with specific focus on regional and continental civil society organizations, labor relations, human rights, community-based advocacy/empowerment and the independence of print/electronic media;
(E) Social and Cultural exchanges focused on reestablishing ancestral linkages, deepening personal and community linkages and organizing cultural activities that reinforce existing strong bonds;
(F) Grassroots Mobilization in Africa and the Diaspora to sensitize every segment of the society and to engender grassroots support.
This is extremely vital to the sustainability of the Africa-Africa Diaspora collaboration and partnership. It is our expectation that the AU will need follow up consultations after the May 2012 high-level meeting with applicable Africa Diaspora continental organizations, governments and non-government organizations. These consultations are not only inevitable but also critical for a simple, practical reason: Despite blood and familial linkages, Africans and Africans in the Diaspora will come to the table with differing expectations and anticipated outcomes.
Organizing the Africa-Africa Diaspora partnership Today, organizing remains a premium in the partnership. Without diligent, high-level organizing, the Africa-Africa Diaspora partnership is unlikely to blossom.In the short term, the following specific steps need to be taken in Africa:
•The AU should establish the Office of the Commissioner for Africa Diaspora Affairs to coordinate collaboration and partnership efforts;
•The AU, the AfDB and. the ECA should establish a high level joint Africa Diaspora partnership to leverage unique skill sets and resources. Additionally, all Africa regional economic commissions should establish high level Africa Diaspora desks to facilitate regional activities;
•All African governments should establish a high level focal point on Africans in the Diaspora, preferably at the ministerial level;
•The organized Africa business sector, continental professional organizations, continental civil society organizations and continental media associations should establish high level Africa Diaspora initiatives with their counterparts in the Diaspora.
The AU in the short term also needs to play catalytic roles on bilateral and multilateral Africa Diaspora initiatives. AU should commence high level discussions with the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Belgium and other Western countries with significant Africa Diaspora populations on Africa-Diaspora partnership issues. In addition, AU should finalize discussions with Brazil, India, China and other powerful South-South countries with well-known African Diaspora. At the multilateral level, the AU should expand its current partnership with the World Bank and extend relationships to the UNDP and the World Health Organization on Africa Diaspora issues. Within Africans in the Diaspora, significant challenges remain regarding organizing efforts in the short term. These challenges range from lack of close working relationships between Diaspora communities, proliferation of poorly funded organizations and lack of scaled up efforts on the ground in Africa. However, if Diaspora governments are sensitized by AU bilateral efforts, it may be easier to organize the disparate Africa Diaspora organizations.
It is also possible that non-government organizing efforts in the Diaspora may strengthen and mature as the AU provides clarity and leadership on Africa-Africa Diaspora partnerships. Implementing Specific Africa-Africa Diaspora Initiatives Africa-Africa Diaspora partnership needs to demonstrate the capacity to collaborate, even on pilot projects and initiatives to escape the well known criticism of past talk fests and proclamations. In this regard, the Africa-Africa Diaspora partnership will benefit from:
-The creation of Africa-Africa Diaspora Business Network. This should be the work of the organized private sector in Africa and in the Diaspora, focusing on facilitating business contacts, partnerships, incubator relationships, contracts and joint ventures. Governments on both sides have an important role in creating enabling environments and facilitating hassle free commerce;
-The establishment of a public-private African Diaspora Investment Fund for Africa’s Development to spur Diaspora bona fide entrepreneurs to invest in Africa. The proposed fund can work closely with the sovereign funds emerging out of some African countries to encourage long term investments in Africa on critical issues such as infrastructure support, mechanization and commercialization of agriculture;
-The establishment of an Africa-Africa Diaspora Intellectual Capacity and Professional Network to facilitate intellectual exchange and to harness the potential contribution of thousands of Africa Diaspora professionals in Africa’s development. African think tanks, universities (including the proposed Pan African University) and government technical agencies can work together with Diaspora counterparts to establish intellectual hubs on key subject areas, sharing data, expertise and lessons learned. Professional networks can play important role in collaborative ventures, bilateral and multilateral initiatives.
The AU in 2008 established the African Union-Africa Diaspora Health Initiative to jumpstart the contribution of Africa Diaspora health professionals in specific geographical areas in Africa. Other similar initiatives could be created in other fields such as education, public administration, economics, law, agriculture and energy; oThe creation of Africa-Africa Diaspora Science and Technology Network. This collaboration could become a game changer in Africa’s development in the coming decades as the continent becomes positioned to benefit substantially from leaps in science and technology. The astonishing adoption and maturation of cell phone usage in Africa clearly demonstrates a strong future market for proven game changing advances in science and technology. The partnership between Africa and its Diaspora has the capacity to become one of the most notable achievements of the 21st century. However, a lot of work lies ahead. African leaders now have the responsibility of facilitating the emergence of a durable, sustainable Africa-Africa Diaspora partnership that can stand the test of time and play a game changing role in the lives of future generations of Africans and their brethren in the Diaspora.
By Chinua Akukwe, Melvin Foote and Franklyn Lisk.
Dr. Chinua Akukwe is the former Chairman of the Technical Advisory Board of the Africa Center for Health and Human Security at the George Washington University, Washington, DC. He is also the Executive Chairman of the African Union Africa Diaspora Health Initiative, Washington, DC.
Melvin Foote is the Founder/CEO of the Constituency for Africa (CFA), Washington, DC, a leading US-based advocacy organization for Africa’s development. CFA is also an implementing partner for the African Diaspora Marketplace, an innovative initiative to engage the Diaspora in North America in doing business on the ground in Africa. Mr. Foote has more than 35 years continuous high-level engagement on Africa Diaspora and Africa development issues in the United States and Africa.
Dr. Franklyn Lisk is a Professorial Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Globalization and Regionalization, Warwick University, United Kingdom, and Visiting Professor at the John and Elnora Ferguson Centre for African Studies, University of Bradford, UK. A native of Sierra Leone, Dr. Lisk spent more than 25 years in senior leadership positions within the UN system, including serving as Deputy Regional Director for Africa and the founding director of the HIV/AIDS and the World of Work program at the International Labor Organization.
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