Working towards an integrated Africa

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Johannesburg - The high-level Global African Diaspora Summit has adopted a set of legacy projects which will strengthen the contribution of the diaspora to the continent.

The projects, endorsed by African leaders at the summit on Friday evening, include a fund that will harness the financial resources of its citizens based in the diaspora which will be used for the development of projects on the continent.

The fund will provide a platform through which the African Union Commission will lure the African diaspora to contribute to the 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.

Noting that the continent was affected by low-level connectivity of infrastructure networks and poor access to energy and information services among other things, the summit further agreed to speed up Africa's infrastructure development needs.

In this regard, they resolved to increase public financing of infrastructure by implementing major power projects in the areas of hydroelectricity, oil refinery, the acceleration of missing links and the modernisation of railways and increasing the capacity of the continent's ports.

They also committed themselves to developing new and renewable energy resources to provide clean, reliable and affordable energy as well as nuclear energy.

The summit regarded the success of these projects as one of the pillars of the continent's economic integration.

Other legacy projects adopted included a Diaspora Volunteer Program which will associate the diaspora directly with the development efforts of the continent. It is hoped that the program will also give concrete meaning to the concept of the "African family".

The summit was of the view that through education and skills development Africa shall conquer the ills of poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment.

Others included 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.

Speaking at the closing of the summit, President Jacob Zuma said resolutions taken at the summit as well as the announcement that South Africa would share in the hosting of the world's most powerful radio telescope - the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope - demonstrated that Africans were more than capable of successfully taking their destiny in their own hands.

"Africa is here. Africa is rising. Africa is happening and no one will stop us because we have what it takes to make it work," said Zuma.

By hosting the summit the leaders had asserted their "shared descendency; our shared vision; our shared history; our shared experience, and our shared commitment to overcome the challenges faced by our people on the African continent".

"Whilst this project must inspire us, its outcomes are a clear demonstration that even though we are situated in different parts of the world, nothing must prevent us from working towards a common goal - that of creating a better life for the people of Africa and the diaspora."

The resolutions taken at the summit, he added, would ensure that Africa provided decent jobs to the people. "We must ensure that all our people live in a safe and secure environment."

The current Chairperson of the AU and Benin President Bon Yayi said what remained important was how Africa and its diaspora were going to collectively realise the goals set at the summit.

Sharing Zuma's view, he said for them to be realised, a lot of courage, hard work and support would be required.

"These initiatives do not and cannot end at this summit, in fact actual work begins now," Yayi said, adding that the emphasis will be on the implementation agenda.

Zuma, meanwhile, affirmed that the projects adopted the summit would not interfere with the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) - which is also designed to address the current challenges facing the African continent such as the escalating poverty levels, underdevelopment and the continued marginalisation of Africa.

Instead the two will complement each other for the development of the country.

The summit was attended by several current and former Heads of State and Government who were jovial as they mingled among each other. Some delegates used the summit, which coincided with Africa Day, to proudly display their traditional attire from countries across the continent.

The summit had earlier opened with a call for African leaders to accelerate progress towards the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals. Countries in the diaspora like Jamaica and Suriname called for mass and total mobilisation of all African people so that they can be projected in global affairs while Cuba reiterated call for lifting of sanctions imposed on it.

After the summit the delegates were treated to a concert, where the likes of Salif Keita performed.