Africa, diaspora set to strengthen trade, tourism ties

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pretoria - African and the Caribbean governments are set to invest more resources and energy towards developing and promoting stronger linkages between the two regions in the fields of trade and investment, science and technology and tourism.

These, and many other such ideas geared towards fostering a stronger culture of cooperation between the mother continent and her diaspora, are some of the ideas contained in the draft declaration document that will be taken forward to the Global African Diaspora summit, which will be held on Friday, in Johannesburg.

Over 60 representatives from various African countries and the diaspora, including the Caribbean and the Americas, will converge at the Sandton Convention Centre tomorrow - a day that coincides with Africa Day - for the eminent summit.

Ministers from countries represented at the summit on Wednesday gathered at South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) headquarters in Pretoria for a meeting that essentially set the tone for tomorrow's all-important summit.

Chief amongst discussions between ministers was the draft declaration document, which is envisaged to be adopted at the close of the summit.

The resolutions set forth, amongst others, the need for Africa and her diaspora to work together towards achieving the objectives of the African Union (AU).

The AU's vision is that of "an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena".

The ministers identified areas of cooperation including education, health, culture and environmental issues as some of the crucial fields where Africa and her diaspora could build concrete relations in order to bring to fruition the AU's vision.

With global competiveness for skills, resources, land and other commodities being at an all-time high, the ministers resolved that more needed to be done through the various regional organisations to explore ways of harmonising international diplomacy and cooperation.

SA's International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said they would take these ideas contained the draft declaration to the leaders' summit so they can be considered for implementation.

Tomorrow's summit will be held under the theme, "Towards the Realisation of a United and Prosperous Africa and its Diaspora".

Amongst others, it will consider the possible inclusion of the diaspora as a sixth region of the AU and endorse an AU Diaspora Volunteer Programme, which would associate the diaspora directly with the development efforts on the continent.

In a statement issued at the end of the ministerial meeting on Wednesday, Nkoana-Mashabane said the summit was one of the vehicles through which the African Union and the African diaspora aimed to realise the vision of a united, peaceful and prosperous Africa and her diaspora.

"We are mindful of the fact that unifying Africa's people is a process; and we are of the view that this summit marks a significant milestone in this process of unifying Africa and her diaspora."

The other resolution the ministers' meeting hoped would be adopted on Friday included the African Diaspora Fund, whereby Africans abroad would be able to invest in African development projects and an increase in spending on infrastructure development of the continent.

According to the AU, the continent would require about US$60 billion in the next 10 years to meet its infrastructure needs.

The ministers also hoped that there would be a creation of a database of professional skills in the African diaspora, as well as the adoption and promotion of the Development Market Place for an African Diaspora model as a framework to facilitate innovation and develop entrepreneurship to empower the youth of the continent and her diaspora.

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, had indicated in his opening remarks that the draft declaration was a credible and important document that was adapted to the letter and spirit of the Diaspora Initiative. Equally important was that it was both a proposed law and working document.

Ping added that the process of rebuilding the African family was and would always remain a work in progress that could not be accomplished in one day. Concomitantly, he said focus must be on establishing appropriate structures that would facilitate more effective diaspora participation in the affairs of the Union.

The ministerial meeting, meanwhile, reinforced the call for Africa and its diaspora to unite in order to build a solid foundation for reviving the African family across the world - a move that will give impetus to the renaissance of the continent.