Sandton - While the African continent should promote Afro-optimism and Ubuntu, challenges such as possibly not meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline must be addressed, says President Jacob Zuma.
"...It is of concern that while the world is three years away from the Millennium Development Goals deadline of 2015, we face the threat of Africa not meeting this deadline. This is one task that the AU Commission must be preoccupied with," said the President on Thursday night at the gala dinner in honour of delegates attending the African Diaspora Summit.
Delegates from across the continent and the African diaspora across the Atlantic gathered at the Sandton Convention Centre on the eve of the summit, which coincides with Africa Day. The summit gets underway on Friday.
At the dinner, attended by African Union chairperson and President of Benin, Boni Yayi, as well as chairperson of the AU Commission Jean Ping, Zuma said it was necessary to tap into the knowledge and skills of the diaspora to help create a meaningful leadership path for the AU towards realising the MDGs.
Education was key to the continent's total emancipation. However, that education should be of a calibre that does not promote underdevelopment, powerlessness, dependency and confusion.
Zuma called on Africa to reverse "self-hate and Afro-pessimism."
"We must promote the principles of self-love, Afro-optimism, Ubuntu and the respect for human worth and human dignity," Zuma said to a packed room of delegates.
"We are now one people, and must work together for the betterment of the peoples of African descent, regardless of geographical borders."
Zuma challenged the summit to innovate ways to involve the diaspora in affairs of the continent, particularly the AU, in a more concretised, formal manner.
The continent was praised for moving towards viable peace, development and sustainability - a milestone from the 16 raging civil wars in 2002.
In his address, Yayi called on member states to commit themselves to rid the continent of challenges like poverty and bad governance.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and King Mswati of Swaziland were among some of the dignitaries sharing the dinner table with Zuma at the beautifully decorated venue. There was a strong police presence in and around the venue.
Speaking to BuaNews ahead of Zuma's address, delegate Oscar Brathwaite who is with the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC), hoped that the conference would bring the continent together.
"The primary goal I'd like to see is the closing of the divide between continental Africans and diaspora Africans. I hope that this conference brings us closer together as a people so we can work together and make Africa a much stronger continent."
Meanwhile, Khafra Kambon, chairperson of the Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad and Tobago, said: "Africa and African people globally ought to [create] a different platform for our relationship for development, which will be beneficial to the continent as well as to Africans in the diaspora. We need each other."
His sentiments were shared by the programme director for the night, Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who called on the continent to work together to strengthen the continent.
After the formal proceedings were concluded, guests were treated to the music of artists such as Yvonne Chaka-Chaka and Hugh Masekela, with some taking to the dance floor.
Today not only marks Africa Day -- the Organisation of African Unity, the precursor of the African Union, was established on this day in Ethiopia 49 years ago.
South Africa became the 53rd member of the union on 23 May 1994.