Engaging the African diaspora
For the first time, the African Union has invited Africa's diaspora (those who trace their roots back to the continent) to actively take part in the region's development. Heads of state who met for the African Union extraordinary summit in February agreed to amend the organization's charter to "encourage the full participation of the African diaspora as an important part of the continent...." This followed active lobbying by members of the diaspora seeking recognition as agents for the continent's development.
Absent formal structures, African diaspora groups have generally relied on ad-hoc, disparate and small-scale programmes to assist in the development of the continent. Despite this, many have been able to help build schools, hospitals and roads, run training programmes, supply books and computers to deprived schools and establish scholarships to assist students.
But they operate outside the sphere of mainstream development agencies, even though they may be working towards the same ends. "Africa must develop a collective strategy for engaging the diaspora," noted US Ambassador to Nigeria Howard Jeter. He said there have been no meaningful attempts to engage the diaspora and no institutional connections exist. "Few African-Americans know about NEPAD. Why should that be?" asked Ambassador Jeter, in an address to the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in November. He observed that Africa is not utilizing African-Americans as a primary political constituency in the US. "Are African-Americans really being encouraged to do business with Africa? I don't think so." As Africa begins to map out a strategy to engage those in the diaspora, such questions need to be asked, he said.
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