Southern African News Features                                           SANF 12 No 18 , May 2012

Africa lures its Diaspora for development projects

by Danai Majaha

Africa plans to launch a fund to harness the financial resources of its citizens based in the Diaspora which will be used for development projects on the continent.

The proposed African Diaspora Development Fund and Remittances will be unveiled at the Global African Diaspora Summit to be hosted by the African Union (AU) Commission in collaboration with the South African government in Johannesburg from 23-25 May.

The fund will provide a platform through which the AU Commission would lure the African Diaspora to contribute to the continent’s development.

It is one of the initiatives being pursued by the AU Commission following a resolution by African leaders, agreed at their 18th summit in Ethiopia in February, to increase spending on infrastructure development on the continent.

The continent will require about US$60 billion over the next 10 years to meet its infrastructure needs.

Noting that the continent’s regional integration agenda is presently affected by low-level connectivity of infrastructure networks and poor access to energy and information services, the leaders agreed to speed up Africa’s infrastructure development, which is regarded as one of the pillars of the continent’s economic integration agenda.

They resolved to increase public financing of infrastructure, implement major power projects such as hydroelectricity, oil refinery and gas pipelines, accelerate the construction of missing links and modernization of railways, and increase the capacity of ports.

The African leaders also committed themselves to developing new and renewable energy resources to provide clean, reliable and affordable energy as well as nuclear energy for peaceful use.

South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said the Global African Diaspora Summit aims to create sustainable partnerships between Africa and the African Diaspora through a realisable programme of action; create sustainable dialogue, partnerships and strengthen pan-African solidarity for a better Africa and her Diaspora.

“The event takes place in a year that is historically significant to Africa. This year, we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the launch of the African Union,” she said.

To be held under the theme, “Towards the Realisation of a United and Prosperous Africa and its Diaspora”, the summit will also consider the possible inclusion of the Diaspora as a sixth region of the AU and endorse an AU Diaspora Volunteer Programme, which would associate the Diaspora directly with the development efforts on the continent.

It will also look at the development of a skills database of Diaspora professionals and the model of a "development marketplace for an African Diaspora" as a framework to facilitate innovation and develop entrepreneurship both on the continent and within the African Diaspora.

The first ever Global African Summit will bring together leaders from over 60 countries, diplomats and various organisations that work with the African Diaspora.

The AU defines the African Diaspora as people of African descent and heritage living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and who remain committed to contribute to the development of the continent.

According to the African Development Bank, Africa gets nearly US$40 billion a year in remittances.

It is estimated that between 1990 and 2010, the inflows into Africa quadrupled and are now equivalent to about 2.6 percent of the continent’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as of 2009.

The actual numbers could be significantly higher considering that some countries do not publish remittance data on a regular basis.

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