Address by Deputy Minister Ebrahim on the occasion of the African Diaspora National Committee of Experts Meeting, 30 November 2010, Pretoria

Senior managers from the Department,
Panellists and participants,
Ladies and gentlemen

Let me take this opportunity to extend a warm welcome to all of you on this occasion of the African Diaspora National Committee of Experts meeting. The question of African Diaspora found its roots in the vision of a united, peaceful and prosperous Africa. This vision has been well documented within the context of the Pan-Africanist project which gained momentum during the 19th century.

We are the beneficiaries of a legacy of unity; we have been bequeathed with an illustrious history of deep intellectual reflection and consideration of the constructs of a modern development paradigm.  Our forebears who saw their roles and responsibilities as being to procure a future better than theirs, spent countless of unpaid hours imagining, dreaming and constructing a new world in which we had to live. 
Ladies and gentlemen

Pan-Africanism was conceived as a political project by a group of intellectuals and activists of African origin pursuant to the conditions of, among others, slavery and colonialism which necessitated that Africans on the continent and the Diaspora find ways and means to restore their true humanity. Africans, notwithstanding wherever they would be in a given time, have always associated themselves with the continent as their ancestral homeland.

The Pan-Africanist project was therefore not only limited to physically reconnecting the people of African origin with their continent, but to ensure the restoration of dignity and freedom of Africans, the world over. 

The accomplished Pan – African ideologues such as WEB Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah and our own, Pixley Ka Isaka Seme, Prof Matthews, Robert Sobukwe and Steve Biko, wear the accolades of being trailblazers to a thought whose mission has still not been accomplished. Today we must commit to yet again sow the thread and enjoin our own commitment to their vision. You may recall that ka Seme, elaborated on the importance of African renewal in his address to New York's Columbia University, in 1906 when he said:      

"The brighter day is rising upon Africa...Yes the regeneration of Africa belongs to this new and powerful period. The African people...possess a common fundamental sentiment which is everywhere manifest, crystallizing itself into one common controlling idea...The regeneration of Africa means that a new and unique civilization is soon to be added to the world."

The numerous Pan-African conferences during the 1900s, 20s and 30s leading up to the landmark Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England, in 1945, laid solid intellectual foundations and vision, what we will do today is to take these historic references forth. Among other things, the Manchester gathering gave momentum to the struggle against colonialism and apartheid on the continent.  Let it be recalled that it was at this meeting that a resolution which called for racial discrimination to be declared a criminal offence, was passed. You would realise that before Apartheid was declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations in the 1970s, Africans on the continent and the Diaspora had already done so.

Another milestone, which came as a culmination of some of the efforts I have already indulged you with is the Conference of fighters for Independent African States held in 1958 in Ghana. Graced by the attendance of African revolutionaries such as Nyerere, Mboya, Lumumba, this Conference went down in history as the first of its kind to be organised by Africans within the boundaries of an independent African State in pursuit of African Unity. It provided the impetus for the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963.

South African revolutionaries including OR Tambo participated in the inaugural summit of the OAU, an organisation which was charged with the main objective of decolonising the continent.

Ladies and gentlemen

This brief historic narration demonstrates that the vision of African Unity was conceived in the Diaspora. Africans outside the continent remain committed to the achievement of this vision.  Undoubtedly, the conditions on the continent have changed overtime and that the role of the Diaspora in the pursuit of the African agenda should be guided by the current realities on the continent and the world. The words of Nkrumah during the 1958 Conference I referred to earlier summed up this dichotomist reality when he said

“Long may be the links between Africa and the peoples of African descent continue to hold us together in fraternity. Now that we in Africa are marching towards complete emancipation of this continent, our independent status will help in no small measure their efforts to attain full human rights and human dignity as citizens of their country”.

Indeed the OAU fulfilled its mandate of decolonising the continent and democracy began to be entrenched during the 1990s as evidenced by the increased number of elected governments in Africa. Further, we are all aware that the emergence of democracy on the continent brought about its own challenges and could not automatically provide solutions to socio-economic and related challenges.

It is against this background that the African leadership transformed the OAU to the African Union (AU) and mandated the latter to pursue the continental integration agenda in effort to promote socio-economic development in Africa. South Africa had a historic opportunity to host the inaugural summit of the AU in 2002 and played an important role as one of the Architecture of Africa’s socio-economic development programme, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

This continental integration agenda takes its roots from the same vision of African Unity as a catalyst for socio-economic development and stability conceived within the Pan-Africanist project by Africans in the Diaspora. It is in this context, that I believe that the African Diaspora should contribute to the betterment of the lives of our people within the framework of NEPAD.

This is not to suggest that the African Diaspora has not been contributing towards improving the living conditions on the continent. However, it is to emphasise that more could be done in this and other areas.  If you take the impact of financial remittances in poverty alleviation, you would agree that these are much needed and reliable sources of income for Africa’s marginalised communities. There is a need to further create an environment within which African economies benefit from these remittances and I do hope that your deliberations would culminate on tangible proposals in this regard.

Without necessarily elaborating on all programmatic issues you are going to consider today, one key area which you would consider is the issue of infrastructure development. This has been identified as a priority area by the AU July 2010 Kampala Summit to an extent that, pursuant to South Africa’s proposal, five key infrastructure projects to be led at Heads of State Level were identified. In this regard, President Zuma has been appointed by the AU to champion the North-South Corridor project in his capacity as chair of the AU Heads of State Sub-Committee on Infrastructure, such projects should be implemented in the five regions of the continent. Also, we would need to consider ways and means to tap into the valuable information, skills and intellectual capacity embodied by the African Diaspora.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The African Diaspora Dialogue is not meant nor is a government only business, in the main it should galvanise all, the civil society, private sector, youth formations, women’s organisations and political formations. This is in line with the resolution on the African Diaspora, of the ANC’s Polokwane Conference, which not only supports the hosting of a Diaspora Summit but also the involvement and participation of the masses of our people in these initiatives.

In conclusion, I hope you will realise that we have a historical mission to manifest and make Africa’s regeneration a reality. When this mission succeeds, then and only then shall Africa no longer be, scarred, dehumanised and cast to the periphery of the global configuration of power.

I wish you well in conducting your business today.

I thank you.

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