Ladies and Gentlemen, I am greatly honoured to have been given the opportunity to deliver a key note speech here in Canada for this first sixth regional summit after the declaration of last year. I feel warmth in my heart that it is being held here in Canada, where I served as my country’s High Commissioner only a short while ago. I am truly humbled.
Today I want to provoke thought and action towards the implementation of this most noble endeavour. As we celebrate 50 years of Pan Africanism and as we attempt to realize the dream of African Renaissance, both for the continent and its diaspora, I want to pose a serious challenge to this summit today. I want to provoke rather than appease, precisely because of the critical time we have reached in our history as a people throughout the world.
Students of History will remember that at the dawn of African independence, the then president of Tanzania, the late Julius Mwalimu Nyerere proudly proclaimed that within 50 years, Africa would have reached many of its developmental milestones and would be comparable to the rest of the world. Everyone at that time shared this optimism and embraced it with the spirit of sacrifice. However, along the way, we all discovered that perhaps the road to development was not so straight forward and that we had to pass through turbulent times and some growing pains. Never the less, six years ago, in 2007, Ghana, the first African country to gain independence turned fifty. Since then, several others have reached this most important milestone.
Within the coming five years, more than 70 per cent of the African countries will have crossed this important milestone, which was set by ourselves at the beginning of our optimistic endeavour in the late 50’s and early 60’s.
One would naturally want to ask how we have fared. An attempt to answer this would no doubt result in an engaging discussion; although I suspect that most of us would agree, that we are not where we ought to be or where we wanted to be fifty years down the line. I suspect that most of us would also acknowledge that the last decade has seen significant strides both on the continent and its diaspora. The last ten years have seen enormous gains in terms of macro- economic Indicators and general economic GDP growth. Some of this growth has indeed translated into real wealth and direct benefits for many of our people.
Similarly, social, political and economic gains have been achieved in the diaspora. This can in many ways be symbolized by the fact, the 50 years after the March on Washington of 1963, and Dr Martine Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech, the most powerful nation on the globe has at its helm a Barack Obama, a man of African descent. These are indeed good Indicators which by themselves show that we as a people have been able to cross the Biblical 40 years in the wilderness, and have begun to settle the land promised to us. It is therefore befitting that we have come here to establish a solid working plan of consolidating and involvement of the diaspora over the next five years. Indeed, things have begun to turn around in a direction that all of us agree is the correct one.
It is here were I begin my provocation. I do appreciate greatly, that ten years ago, in January 2003, we all collectively agreed to step up and consolidate our trajectory towards economic and social development by amending article 3 (q) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union to invite the African Diaspora to participate as an important component in the building of the African Union. Yet it took literally another decade until 2012 in which we came up with a concrete declaration of intent towards having a program of action in realizing our dream. We celebrate the declaration of the Global African Diaspora summit achieved in Johannesburg on 25th May last year. On a personal sentimental note, it was on the same 25th May 2012 that I got elected the fourth President of the movement for multiparty Democracy. However, and although we celebrate and acknowledge the immense amount of work that went into setting up the preconditions and eventually the declaration itself, I believe that we all need to accept that it took us too long to get us to this declaration. I share this concern now, after the fact, not as a way of beating upon ourselves or as a way of lamenting, but in order to remind ourselves that if we continue to move at this pace it may be another decade or two before we begin to truly achieve the more that 60 commitments we made in our declaration in South Africa.
In reading the declaration, I do take note that five legacy projects were proposed as being Key in creating impetus towards implementation. Among these were the establishment of the African Diaspora Volunteer Corps, the African Diaspora Investment Fund and the African Remittances Institute. I would like to recommend that we take a serious and thorough review as to how we have fared in the implementation of these programmes. This will immediately give us an indication of the commitment and zeal by which we wish to accelerate our declaration.
In addition to this thorough review of our legacy projects, I wish to highlight, my own personal choices of the issues I believe would help us implement our programmes quicker and reach our cause with some degree of certainty. As I carefully studied the declaration of 2012, I did take note of the programme of action itemized at its end. In that programme there are three parts designated as Political Cooperation, Economic Cooperation and Social Cooperation. The total number of commitments of all these parts amount to 63. I believe that in addition to the Legacy Projects and if we have to have a fair degree of success, we have to choose among these 63, and prioritize a few commitments for our attention and set a time frame by which we can implement them. Prioritization is always key in designing a framework and a useful strategy as an instrument of successful implementation. For the purpose of provoking thought, I have identified seven of these commitments (including the Legacy Projects) as being most cardinal towards the easy fulfilment of the remaining 57 commitments.
In my humble opinion I believe that in the first category of Political Cooperation the most cardinal towards prioritization should be:
a. Encourage African Union Member states to urgently ratify the protocol on the amendments to the constitutive act, which invites the African Diaspora, as an important part of our continent, to participate in the building of the African Union.
b. Encourage the diaspora to organize themselves into regional networks and establish appropriate mechanism that will enable their increasing participation in the affairs of the African union as observers and eventually, in the future, as the sixth region of the continent that would contribute substantially to the implementation of policies and programmes.
c. Encourage AU and CARICOM to create a conducive environment for the African Diaspora to Invest, work and travel on the African Continent and the Caribbean
I believe that the urgent ratification of the protocol on the amendments to the Constitutive Act by member states would create a much easier and long lasting platform by which these could be speedily implemented. It is absolutely important that individual domestication of this protocol by member states be prioritized as it would also encourage local movements within the respective states to be established and promote the agenda of unification and a locally owned product, rather than one that appears to be imposed from the super state level.
In regard to part two under the Economic Cooperation, two items have a special appeal to me for prioritization: These read as following;
a. To create measures that would promote and sustain linkages between the AU and the Diaspora in the following priority areas, trade and investment, science and technology, travel and tourism, communication and transport infrastructure, energy, information and communication technology and cultural industries.
b. Explore the possibility of creating a development fund/and or African Diaspora investment fund to address development challenges confronting African in the continent and the diaspora.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The problem of African has been one of lack of capital accumulation and the necessary financial deepening that would encourage the growth of locally owned business enterprises that would eventually grow to become multinationals. If we can focus our energies in developing a mechanism by which investment funds are easily available and accessed at an affordable price, we will have completed half of the journey. I do take note of the saying that money is not everything, but I do believe that we all know, that the current levels of accelerated development on the sub-Continent has partly been as a result of the colossal gravitational pull of China and the investment reserves it has been able to activate on the developmental agenda. We must look forward to a time in which the driving force of local investment and the impetus for accelerated economic growth has its origin in domestic sources of finance. In this way, we will be able to expand our middle class, reduce the incidence of poverty and create a base by which entrepreneurial boldness and innovation can further set the stage for an African technological revolution. Our prioritization of these items, would create a firm foundation for this to happen.
Under section three and in regard to Social Cooperation, I am particularly drawn to the following item:
“Promote national and continental initiatives that aim to enhance good governance and rule of Law, so as to strengthen a positive image of Africa among the Africans in the Diaspora and the international community at large.”
Distinguished invited guests, fellow delegates,
It is now without dispute that the last ten years of stable and accelerated growth throughout the African continent and the diaspora, has been largely due to the fact that many African countries democratised and became multi-party states after the end of the cold war. The democratisation of the continent, meant less war and conflict, entrenched governance systems through the institutionalization and the consolidation of the rule of law. These developments have created an environment in which both local and international investors could take calculated risks towards undertaking both developmental projects as well as business ventures.
Many achievements towards the further consolidation of democratisation are clearly evident. However, a lot more needs to be done. It would be of great assistance if mechanism by which the diaspora movement can exert positive influence in ensuring that Independent electoral commissions are established through the continent. Equally important is the consolidation of the role of opposition political parties in providing checks and balances to the government. This has to be enshrined not only in the minds and hearts of its citizens, but also in the behaviour of those entrusted with the instruments of power. We must all work towards the independence of the Judiciary and ensure that it is strengthened in order to counter balance the other two wings of the government. Such initiatives, coupled with a vibrant and independent media would certainly improve and strengthen a positive image of the Continent and its diaspora. This would bring in additional investment flows into the continent and its diaspora.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me now end by reemphasising, my call to provoke by simply challenging this meeting to undertake a thorough evaluation of our achievements in relations to the targets we set last year in South Africa. Let us have a full understanding of where we have reached towards the implementation of the Legacy project, and if it is not to our satisfaction, let us re-strategize so as to have a better performance to report when we do the next review. It is also my challenge that in addition to these legacy projects let us select a few areas for prioritization. One such key commitment would be the ratification of the amendments to the Constitutive Act by member states in order to domesticate and enhance upon local ownership of the program. It is my hope and prayer that we will succeed in these endeavours.
I thank you and God bless Africa and its Diaspora.