Remarks by Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa, HE Ms. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, on the occasion of the Ministerial Meeting of the Global African Diaspora, OR Tambo Building, Wednesday, 23 May 2012.

Your Excellency Mr Nassiru Bako Arifari;
Honourable Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Jean Ping;
The executive Secretary of CARICOM, His Excellency Ambassador Irwin La Rocque;
Representatives of the Pan-Affrican Parliament;
Representatives of the African Mayors;
Distinguished Guests; and
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Welcome to South Africa! We are meeting today to prepare for the Global African Diaspora Summit, an event of historic significance in the relations between Africa and its Diaspora.  The date chosen for this event, the 25th of May, symbolizes our victory over colonialism and our quest for Pan-African unity.  It was on this day that our leaders converged in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to form the Organization African Unity (OAU) which became a leading champion for the full and true independence of Africa.

As South Africa, we will always remember the support we received during our struggle from the OAU and many of you who are present here today.  The African National Congress (the ANC) is able to celebrate a hundred years of its existence this year because of your support and sacrifices for our freedom.

This year we also celebrate another historic moment  - a moment when ten years ago we formed the African Union to take the struggles waged by the OAU to a higher level.  In transforming the OAU into the AU, our leaders wanted a continental organization which will tackle new challenges facing independent Africa in the context of the 21st century. 

The Summit that will meet on Friday is indeed the brainchild of the AU.  It is Africa’s effort to reach out to its sons and daughters out there in other parts of the world to affirm our collective identity and marshal our forces for a better Africa and a better world.
Your Excellencies,

The last time we met as Ministers to prepare for this Summit was in New York on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly on 24 September 2011. 

Your Excellencies will recall that the AU Summit held in 2010 in Kampala, Uganda, adopted a Roadmap with three elements; namely:

  • Convening of the Technical Committee of Experts Meeting (TCEM);
  • A Ministerial Meeting which, as we know, took place in New York; and
  • The Summit in 2012 that will take place on Friday.

Your Excellencies, when we met in New York in September 2011, we had three objectives in mind.
Firstly, we wanted to consolidate our common ground and understanding on issues pertaining to Africa and its Diaspora in the context of the objectives of the Global African Diaspora Summit.

Secondly, we reviewed the outcomes of the work that Senior Officials had been doing within the auspices of Technical Committee of Experts Meeting (TCEM); and

Thirdly, we considered draft documents, notably the Summit Declaration, Programme of Action, and the Implementation Mechanism.

The outcomes of our New York meeting were presented and endorsed by the January 2012 Summit of the African Union which also called upon the Republic of South Africa to continue its collaboration with the AU Commission in preparation for the May 25 African Diaspora Summit.

This is where we are today.  We meet again to reflect on how far we have carried forward the goals we have set ourselves to achieve in New York, as well as other meetings we have had on the Diaspora Summit. Indeed, what brought us together under one roof is to engage frankly and openly on issues we collectively believe will add value to the outcomes of the Summit. The outcomes of this meeting will be our own contribution to the decisions our leaders will take on Friday.

The road to where we are today has been a long one. Your Excellencies will recall that the 3RD Extra-Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the AU of May 2003, pronounced on the importance of the African Diaspora as a component of the AU and its processes.  Subsequently, in July 2003, we adopted the Protocol on the Amendments to the Constitutive Act of the African Union with Article 3(q) where we undertook to (I quote)” invite and encourage the full participation of the African Diaspora as an important part of our Continent, in the building of the African Union” (close quote).

In its definition of the Diaspora, the Executive Council of the AU, considers the African Diaspora as consisting of (I quote) “peoples of African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union” (close quote).

Following this firm commitment, when South Africa was celebrating the 10th anniversary of our freedom from apartheid, we co-hosted with the AU and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) the African Diaspora Ministerial Conference in March 2005 in Jamaica.  This Ministerial Conference arrived at a number of important conclusions, amongst which are the following:

  • Firstly, the African Union and CARICOM should continue to develop a concrete mechanism for the institutionalization of the relations between the two bodies;
  • Secondly; that African and Caribbean governments should explore and develop concrete measures for promoting linkages between the two regions in the  following priority areas: trade and investment, science and technology, travel and tourism, education and culture, health, and environmental issues;
  • Thirdly; that African and Caribbean organs of civil society should explore and develop concrete measures for promoting linkages and collaboration between the two regions; [and]
  • Fourthly; that Africa and the Caribbean, through their regional organizations, should explore ways of harmonizing international diplomacy.

When our leaders meet on Friday, they will look at how best to implement these conclusions.  This is what the draft Summit Declaration and Programme of Action attempt to achieve.

These documents are a product of extensive and rigorous consultations with all sectors of our people both on the continent and in the Diaspora. A series of multi-stakeholder consultations were held between April and October 2007 in Latin America, the United Kingdom, North America, Europe, and the Caribbean region.  African civil society was also engaged in this process.

At the level of governments, we met as Ministers in November 2007 in Midrand (here in South Africa) to receive the report of all these consultations and consider elements of what is contained in the draft documents that our leaders will adopt on Friday.

Similarly, in the past few days, we have been engaged in a series of Pre-Summit consultations with (among others) the business community, civil society, community-based organisations, and the women and youth. These consultations are aimed at harnessing our collective ideas to ensure that we achieve our common objectives at this Summit. 

The Summit on Friday will work for an outcome that that will help create sustainable partnerships between the African Diaspora and the African Continent through a realisable Programme-of-Action; create sustainable dialogue, partnerships and strengthen Pan-African Solidarity, for a better Africa and her Diaspora; and promote South-South cooperation.

One amongst what we believe will be adopted at the Summit is a set of Legacy Projects to anchor the implementation of its outcomes.  These Legacy projects will be in the areas of:

  • The AU Diaspora Volunteer Programme that would associate the Diaspora directly and urgently with the development efforts on the Continent and give concrete meaning to concept of one African family;
  • An African Diaspora Development Fund and Remittances and Financial instruments;
  • The development of a Skills Database of Diaspora Professionals; and
  • The adoption and promotion of the Development Market Place for an African Diaspora model as a framework to facilitate innovation and develop entrepreneurship to empower the youth of the Continent and her Diaspora.

Your Excellencies

The African Diaspora Summit is the culmination of a long history of association – a history of unity in struggle – between the people of Africa and its Diaspora.  When we think about this history, we always refer to the Pan-African conferences, the first of which was held more than a hundred years ago in 1900, to chart a way we continue to follow today.  We have been united as people of African descent by our struggle against slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism.  This struggle has indeed produced many great leaders and brilliant thinkers who continue to guide and inspire us to this day.

Thanks to this struggle and our unity, Africa achieved its independence more than fifty years ago. 
Our African brothers and sisters in the Diaspora have also fought heroically for their right to self-determination in the Caribbean and parts of Latin America, and against racisms and racial discrimination in North America and Europe. 

These struggles on the continent and the Diaspora are far from over.  The challenges of neo-colonialism are still before us.  Racism is another reality that continues to cause pain, suffering and humiliation to its victims.  Many people on this continent still live in fear because of the absence of peace and security in their countries.  Disease, hunger and ignorance remain an obstacle to our achievement of a better life for our people.

We are in South Africa to pick up the spear relayed to us from the days of the Pan-African conferences.  This is a heavy responsibility.  We owe it to future generations to rid our continent of all its challenges; and help create a better life for our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora. 

Africa must rise – and it is indeed rising! 

Our unity has been our strength; and it must be so into the future.   

I hope you have a very memorable Africa Day ahead.

I thank you

Issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road
Rietondale
Pretoria

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