Guests arrive for the Global African Diaspora Summit

Friday, May 25, 2012

Johannesburg - Resplendent in traditional attire from countries across the continent, delegates attending the first Global African Diaspora Summit have started arriving at the Sandton Convention Centre, where an atmosphere of togetherness and pride can be felt.

About 64 current and former Heads of State and Government and representatives from the Diaspora are expected to converge at the venue where they will discuss how best to harness skills and energies within Africa and abroad, for the social and economic development of Africa.

Former Presidents Thabo Mbeki, Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo and Namibia's Sam Nujoma are some of the delegates attending the summit.

President Jacob Zuma, who treated the guests to a gala dinner last night , as well as the current Chairperson of the AU and President of Benin Boni Yayi and AU Commission and incumbent Jean Ping will preside over the opening ceremony of the summit.

BuaNews spoke to a few delegates attending the summit, who shared the view that Africa's time to unite was now.

"Africa is one continent, one people, and one nation. It is time we unite and celebrate Africa," Meles Dereje, an Ethiopian living in London, said on Friday.

He believed that one is not African because they are born in Africa but because Africa is born in you.

His hope was that the summit will come up with a clear roadmap to unite the continent with its diapora so that the continent can address its challenges head on.

"Africa is no longer a dark continent. Out future as Africans lies in Africa ... it's up to us to seize the moment."

The summit, which is collaboration between the African Union and the South African government, coincides with Africa Day - a day set aside to reflect on the proud achievements for the African continent and its infinite possibilities.

Africa Day is held on 25 May each year and is used to pay tribute to the continent's rich heritage, diverse languages, ethnicity and cultural backgrounds that make up its residents.

A ministerial meeting held on Wednesday has already set the tone for the summit. The meeting developed a draft Declaration which will be considered during the summit.

The Declaration comprises, among other things, a program of action, an implementation programme, follow-up mechanisms and priority legacy and priority projects.

The ministers underscored the need for continuous consultation between Africa and the Diaspora, building of regional networks in other parts of the world, monitoring and evaluation mechanism for assessing progress and accelerating the pace of achievements in the different areas.

They also emphasised the need to establish political criteria that will facilitate the desire to ensure effective participation of the Diaspora in the African Union.

Later, the delegates will be treated to a concert, where the likes of Salif Keita will perform to celebrate Africa Day.