Opening Remarks by the President of the Republic of South Africa, HE Mr Jacob Zuma, on the occasion of the Opening Session of the Global African Diaspora Summit, Sandton Convention Centre, 25 May 2012
Excellency the chairperson of the African Union, President Bon Yayi of the Republic of Benin,
Excellencies Heads of State and Government
Excellency Mr. Jean Ping, AU Commission chairperson,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Members of the diplomatic corps
It gives me immense pleasure to welcome you all on this very historic Day in our Continent.
We extend especially, a very warm African welcome to all Heads of State and Government, who have taken time off their busy schedules to be part of this important gathering of peoples of African descent.
We feel truly honoured to host you Excellencies, and trust that you have enjoyed your stay thus far, and will continue doing so until the end of our engagements. On this Africa Day, we extend a special welcome to our brothers and sisters from the diaspora.
We are reminded by geologists who studied the minerals, the rocks and the distinctive fossil plants found in South America, Africa, India and other parts of the world, that this collective heritage we call our planet, was a land mass of all the different continents of the earth joined together, and that the source of humanity is in the African continent.
We therefore welcome you back to the source of civilization and humanity.
I must also take this opportunity to acknowledge the sterling work of the AU Commission in preparing for this Summit.
We thank the AU Commission as well for the opportunity given to us to host this gathering. We have an opportunity to build on the hosting of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup and the COP17/CMP7 United Nations climate change conferences. We were happy to successfully host those events on behalf of Africa.
Excellencies, Distinguished delegates,
It was 49 years ago that courageous continental leaders formed the Organisation of African Unity and deemed it fit that we appropriate a day in our calendar to celebrate Africa and her formidable strength.
As we celebrate Africa Day today, and the 10th Anniversary of the African Union, we also celebrate the coming of age of the oldest liberation movement in the continent, the African National Congress.
The resolve of the African National Congress over many decades to represent the aspirations hopes and desires of the oppressed African majority, and to create and produce a free people, served as a unifying cause across the oceans.
Like an umbilical cord, the struggle tied our continents together and gave us leaders such as Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Marcus Garvey, (whose son is here today with us) Sylvester Williams, WEB du Bois Dudley Thompson, Julia Cooper, Charlotte Maxeke, Oliver Tambo, Jomo Kenyatta, Amilcar Cabral, Abidias do Nascimento, Lillian Ngoyi Julius Nyerere, Martin Luther King, Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela, Ben Bella, Gamal Abdel Nasser, to mention but a few.
They had a vision. They wanted to see the liberation of black people from all forms of bondage, humiliation and degradation. They wanted to see black people regardless of borders, being treated with respect and dignity.
They wanted to see Africa taking its rightful place in global affairs, and Africa not being impoverished through the endless exploitation of its raw materials. They wanted to see dependency and underdevelopment ending, replaced by a new Africa that took control over its resources for the benefit of its peoples.
To achieve such goals of an African renewal, Africa and its diaspora need to work together in more organized ways than before to advance the African agenda worldwide.
The theme of the Summit is extremely compelling, “Towards the Realisation of a United and Integrated Africa and its Diaspora”.
This well thought out theme, speaks to issues that we should collectively focus on in realizing a stronger African Agenda. This agenda should speak to the critical issues facing the continent and the diaspora.
Together we are faced with the challenge of defeating the political and economic conditions that, as we speak, condemn the majority of our fellow humans, particularly in poor countries, to the conditions similar to the ones on the Slave Ships that took our kith and kin away from the continent.
The African agenda must enable us to successfully fight this state of existence where people live as though they are imprisoned in the bars of a single jail.
We have to end the existence which makes our people to suffer endlessly from malaria, TB, AIDS and many preventable and curable diseases.
Therefore, we must at this summit write a new story and a new paradigm.
It must be a story that says Africa, working with its diaspora, will move faster to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
The new story must say the rising new Africa will lead to the eradication of Afro-pessimism and prejudice and the exposure of the achievements that have been scored by black people across the oceans over the years.
This Summit must have meaning for our peoples. It must be related to changing the reality of their circumstances.
The outcome must reflect our resolve to ensure an implementable program of action.
It is proposed that we should consider adopting programs such as the Skills Data base, Remittances Program, and African Diaspora Investment Fund, amongst others.
Our deliberations are thus awaited with bated breaths especially because the enthusiasm was reflected by various sectors of society that have been engaging during the week. For example, women and youth have met. To promote telling African stories from an African perspective, a Media colloquium was held.
Our intellectuals discussed the centrality of their role in guiding and providing intellectual contours of our developmental trajectory.
There are many activities indeed that have taken place as part of the build-up.
I have no doubt that we are equal to the task and we should engage and discuss frankly and openly to inspire ourselves to move forward with the undertakings and commitments we have to our people.
Let us create a platform to relook and take stock of what we have done, not only in this Summit, but as men and women who are committed to the course of Africa.
If we make use of this Summit to propel the commitments we have pledged to our people, we will indeed be seen as true advocates of a prosperous and united Africa.
This summit of all peoples of African descent, taking place on African soil, can only take us further towards uniting Africa and her diaspora around a practical programme of action.
Africa’s first Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former President General of the African National Congress Chief Albert Luthuli said some profound words in December 1961.
He said: "Africa is a vital subject matter in the world of today, a focal point of world interest and concern. Could it not be that history has delayed her rebirth for a purpose?
The situation confronts her with inescapable challenges, but more importantly with opportunities for service to herself and mankind. She evades the challenges and neglects the opportunities to her shame, if not her doom. How she sees her destiny is a more vital and rewarding quest than bemoaning her past with its humiliations and sufferings."
Welcome to South Africa. We look forward to a meaningful and fruitful programme.
I wish you all the best on your engagements, and happy Africa Day.
I thank you.