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Africa,Africa-Diaspora Partnership gains momentum, amidstchallenges
By Chinua Akukwe, Ph.D
Special to USAfricaonline.com,USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston; IgboEventsblog and CLASSmagazine
July 21, 2006: At the invitation of the Africa Union and theGovernment of Brazil, I had the privilege to attend the 2006 SecondInternational Conference of Africa and Africans in the Diaspora inSalvador, Bahia, Brazil. In this conference,I also had the honor of moderating the only health session in theconference, an eight-hour, morning and afternoon marathon session.President Lula of the host country, six African heads of state, thenew charismatic prime minister of Jamaica and the Chairperson of theAfrican Union Commission attended the conference. Senior governmentofficials from Africa and the Diaspora, and, leading intellectualsfrom Africa and the Diaspora also participated. In addition, hundredsof Brazilians, especially Afro-Brazilians also participated in thisinternational conference.
The conference afforded the participants, from high rankinggovernment officials to intellectuals from all over the world theopportunity to interact, share views and debate various issues insideand outside of the normal plenary sessions. In my interaction withmany participants, it became evident that most participants were nowfocusing on how best to harness the limitless potential of a strongpartnership between Africa and its Diaspora. It also became clear tome that most participants were now focusing on what I and mycolleagues a few years ago had postulated in an article to be "thethird stage of the Africa-Diaspora partnership" with emphasis oninstitutionalizing the partnership through discussions, debates andnegotiations between Africa and its Diaspora.
This conference represented a showcase of the incredible promiseof a strong Africa-Diaspora partnership. It also demonstrated theextraordinary, looming obstacles. I elaborate briefly on theseincredible promises and challenges.
The Promises of Africa-Diaspora Partnership
The first major promise is the increasing wave of information,education and communication (IEC) about the African Diaspora.Historians in universities, think tanks and other entities are now atwork documenting the earliest lives of the Diaspora, theircontributions to the political, economic, social and scientificdevelopment of their adopted countries, and their ongoing, unresolvedpolitical and economic issues. In particular, the history andcontribution of the Diaspora in Latin America is largely unknown andis now the subject of numerous scholarly inquiries.
Second, political leaders of countries with African Diasporapopulations are now focusing on the limitless potentials of thesecommunities. It was clear to many of us that attended the conferencethat President Lula of Brazil, the country with the largestconcentration of Africans outside of Nigeria, recognizes the criticalrole of the countryâ¤s African population, and, istaking steps to make them a potent political force. Governments ofthe Caribbean are also keenly aware of their historic role asindependent Africa Diaspora countries and the need to play aleadership role in the emerging Africa-Diaspora partnerships, a rolethey had played admirably in the early 20th Century when some oftheir nationals like Marcus Garvey and Dudley Thompson wereinstrumental to the earliest decolonization efforts in Africa. Therole of Nigeria in sending thousands of its professionals to work invarious African and Diaspora countries through the Technical AidCorps was also recognized as a good example of verifiable partnershipstrategies.
Third, the plight of Africans in the Diaspora is now increasinglybetter known. One of the most remarkable outcomes of this conferenceis the education of many participants on the political and economicplight of Africans in the Diaspora in countries where they are in theminority. Despite the effort of President Lulaâ¤sgovernment in nearly four years of running the central government,panel presentations, articles and discussions show thatAfro-Brazilians still face hurdles in accessing political andeconomic power. Black intellectuals from Brazil presented data thatshowed black-white disparities in health, economic and socialoutcomes. During the last day of the Conference, a group ofmostly young Brazilian students staged a demonstration andtemporarily disrupted proceedings demanding an end to racialdiscrimination in Brazil and the need to enforce quotas in educationand health training institutions so that minority populations willhave adequate representation in health and economic professions.
Fourth, it appears that there is a growing recognition that thefuture of Africa-Diaspora partnership lies in creating and sustainingspecific collaborative ventures. Various speakers, from presidents tointellectuals made it clear that it is now crucial to develop andimplement credible and verifiable programs that link Africa with itsbrethren in the Diaspora. These programs should be specific andfocused on verifiable outcomes. For instance, Africa countries withhigh HIV/AIDS burden can benefit from the expertise of Brazil in themanufacture of cheap anti-retroviral drugs. Caribbean countries cansend their nursing staff to African countries with acute shortages.Business men and women from the Diaspora can go into profitablebusiness ventures with their African counterparts. African countriesand countries with Diaspora populations can implement jointundergraduate and graduate exchange and scholarship programs. Thinktanks in Africa and the Diaspora can collaborate on issues of mutualinterest.
Finally, there is a growing realization that a united Africagovernment, perhaps in the mode of the European Union, will help moveforward the institutionalization of Africa-Diaspora partnership. Theissue of a union of African states from my observations in thisconference appears to be gaining momentum. However, what is notevident is how to go about creating such a union in Africa.
A fundamental looming obstacle is how best to develop a sharedvision between Africa and its Diaspora. As noted by many participantsin this conference, it is an illusion to believe that there is at themoment a shared vision of progress between two peoples who have beingseparated for centuries. Developing a shared vision is a majorundertaking that will require frank debates and discussions, and,concerted political action on both sides. It is likely that the needfor a shared vision between Africa and its Diaspora will dominate, atleast, the next two bi-annual conferences.
Second, germane to the need for a shared vision is the definitionof the Africa Diaspora. Defining who is an African Diaspora is not aseasy as one would believe. Conference participants heard about the socalled New Diaspora, which according to Ibrahim Fall, a Gambian-UKnational and one of the participants in this conference, representindividuals from Africa who came to the West recently, first orsecond generation; came to the West mostly on their own free will;continue to retain economic and social contact with their nativelands, and; are now mostly professionals in their adoptedcountries. Are the goals and objectives of the new AfricanDiaspora similar to their brethren whose ancestors left Africaunwillingly and in chains centuries ago and are now completelyassimilated in their adopted countries? Should the discussion ofAfrica Diaspora not extend to India with its large Blackpopulation?
Third, another obstacle is how best to develop structures andinstitutions that will move the Africa-Diaspora partnership, forward.What should be the next steps? Canvassed ideas include:
a) Africans in the Diaspora should create a common organization todeal with Africa through the Africa Union commission?
b) The designation of the Africa Diaspora as the sixth region ofthe Africa Union should lead to the creation of an African Diasporaeconomic community, joining the existing regional economiccommunities in Africa as the focus for regional development?;
c) Africa and Africans in the Diaspora should create a distinctAfrica-Diaspora Organization independent or horizontally related tothe Africa Union?
d) Countries with Africa Diaspora populations should jumpstart theenvisaged partnership be establishing relationships with theirAfrican counterparts? For example, Ghana now has a ministry oftourism and the Diaspora, which allows its national government tochannel its strategic efforts on Diaspora issues.
Interestingly at the conference, the political leaders present,indicated that the best way forward is for intellectuals from Africaand the Diaspora to come up with ideas on how to institutionalize theemerging partnership.
Fourth, the problem of language barrier remains critical. TheDiaspora of Latin America speak mostly Spanish and Portuguese inBrazil. An Africa-Diaspora partnership will have to navigate throughthe major European languages, English, French, Spanish and Portuguesespoken in Africa and the Diaspora, and, other major African spokenlanguages.
Finally, a strong Africa-Diaspora partnership will requireresources. Africa-Diaspora partnership will require financial,technical and logistic resources. How these resources will besourced, harnessed and utilized is yet to receive serious discussion.In addition, discussion on how to manage joint resources for anenduring partnership is yet to begin.
The need for strong, durable partnership between Africa and itsmillions of brethren who live outside of Africa is now widelyaccepted. There is a momentum to institutionalize the partnershipwith special goals and objectives. Despite looming obstacles, thecourse for an Africa-Diaspora partnership appears irreversible.
Dr. Akukwe is the Chairman of the Technical Advisory Board of theAfrica Center for Health and Human Security, George WashingtonUniversity Medical Center, Washington, DC. He is a contributingeditor of USAfricaonline.com and member of the Board of Directors ofthe Constituency for Africa, Washington, DC. He previously served asa Vice Chairman of the National Council for International Health, nowknown as the Global Health Council, Washington, DC.
DEBATE: HowBlack intellectuals let Africa down, and westernstereoptypes complicate therest.By Cedrick Ngalande at the USC, LosAngeles
Why Chinua Achebe, the Eagle onthe Iroko, is Africa's writer of the century. By ChidoNwangwu(First written on March 1, 2002, for USAfrica, updated forProf. Achebe's 74th Birthday tribute on November 16, 2004, andpublished in CLASS magazinesame month): Africa's most acclaimed and fluent writer of theEnglish Language, the most translated writer of Black heritage in theworld, broadcaster extraordinaire, social conscience of millions,cultural custodianand elevator, chronicler and essayist, goodwill ambassador and man ofprogressive rock-ribbed principles, the Eagleon the Iroko, Ugo n'abo Professor ChinuaAchebe, has recently been selected by adistinguished jury of scholars and critics (from 13 countries ofAfrican life and literature) as the writer of the Best book (ThingsFall Apart, 1958) written in the twentieth century regarding Africa.Reasonably, Achebe's message has been neither dimmed nor dulled bytime and clime. He's our pathfinder, the intellectual godfather ofmillions of Africans and lovers of the fineart of good writing. Achebe's cultural contexts are, at once,pan-African, globalist and local; hence, his literarycontextualizations soar beyond the confines of Umuofia and any Igboor Nigerian setting of his creative imagination or historical recall.
His globalist underpinnings and outlook are truly reflective ofthe true essence of his Igbo world-view, his Igbo upbringing anddisposition. Igbos and Jews share (with a few other other cultures)this pan-global disposition to issues of art, life, commerce,juridical pursuits, and quest to be republicanist in terms of thevitality of the individual/self. In Achebe's works, the centrality ofChi (God) attains an additional clarity in the Igbo cosmology... itis a world which prefers a quasi-capitalistic business attitude whiletaking due cognizance of the usefulness of the whole, the community.I've studied, lived and tried to better understand, essentially, therigor and towering moral certainties which Achebe have employed inmost of his works and his world. I know, among other reasons, becauseI share the same ancestry with him. Permit me to attempt a briefsentence, with that Achebean simplicty and clarity. Here,folks, what the world has known since 1958: Achebe is good! Eagle onthe Iroko, may your Lineage endure! There has never been one likeyou!
Ugo n'abo, chukwu gozie gi oo!. ChidoNwangwu, recipient of the Journalism Excellence award (1997), isFounder and Publisher of USAfricaonline.com (first African-ownedU.S.-based professional newspaper to be published on the internet),USAfrica The Newspaper,CLASS magazine and TheBlack Business Journal. He has served as an adviser to theMayor of Houston on international business (Africa) and appears as ananalyst on CNN, VOA, NPR, CBS News, NBC and ABC news affiliates.
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