Johannesburg — The Global African Diaspora Summit being held today must write a new story - that Africa is no longer the dark continent, but it is rising, says President Jacob Zuma.
Zuma, who is presiding over the opening ceremony, together with Chairperson of the AU and President of Benin Boni Yayi and AU Commissioner and incumbent Jean Ping, said the summit must have meaning for people on the continent and change the realities of their circumstances.
"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," Zuma said in his opening address to the summit.
The summit is being attended by over 64 current and former Heads of State and Government and representatives from the diaspora under the theme "Towards the Realisation of a United and Integrated Africa and its Diaspora".
Delegates, which include former Presidents Thabo Mbeki, Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo, Namibia's Sam Nujoma and the current Presidents of Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Nigeria will discuss how best to harness skills and energies within Africa and abroad, for the social and economic development of Africa.
Zuma called on the summit to adopt the spirit of the likes of Julius Nyerere, Martin Luther King, Steve Biko, Sylvester Williams, Marcus Garvey and Nelson Mandela, who wanted to see black people regardless of borders, being treated with respect and dignity and who wanted to see Africa taking its rightful place in global affairs.
"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," he told delegates.
To achieve the goals of an African renewal, Zuma said Africa and its diaspora needed to work together in more organised ways to advance the African Agenda worldwide.
That African Agenda, according to Zuma, must end the existence which makes Africans suffer endlessly from malaria, TB, AIDS as well as political and economic conditions that challenge development on the continent.
"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 cause 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," said Zuma.
This view was shared by Smithsonian Institute's James Early who spoke on behalf of David Dinkins, the former Mayor of New York. He said African people together can make a difference for themselves working with the diaspora.
He said the goal was not just to reconnect with Africa, but to bring expertise and technology from diaspora for the betterment of the continent.
He said if Africa and its diaspora were persistent, consistent and implacable, it would have a good chance at winning and rising above its challenges.
AU Commissioner Jean Ping called for mass and total mobilisation of all African people so that they can be projected in global affairs - a view that was shared by most speakers from Cuba, Jamaica and Suriname who also spoke at the opening session.
Ping reiterated that rebuilding the African family was and would always remain a work in progress that could not be accomplished in one day through commitment and dedication from the leaders.
The thread in the opening session was a vision of a united and strong Africa based on partnerships between governments and all segments of society in order to shore up cohesion and solidarity amongst countries on continent and the diaspora.