28 February 2019

Africa: Black History Month - Africa Must Tap Potentials of Africans in the Diaspora - Panel

Africa needs to bridge the gap between it and Africans in the diaspora so as to develop the continent.

Participants gave this advice on Thursday at a panel discussion organised by the United States Embassy, Abuja in commemoration of the Black History Month.

The theme of the event was "Building bridges between Africa and the Diaspora."

The Black History Month began in 1926 in the United States when historian Carter Wooden and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February as "Negro History Week."

Aside from the lecture, there will be a performance by the Theatre Arts Department of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria to showcase African-American contributions to the arts.

The performance titled "The Meeting" is a play about the meeting between two prominent black- American civil right activists, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr in 1965 during the height of the civil right movement in the US.

According to the African Union, the African Diaspora is composed of "people of African origin living outside of 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."

Speaking at the event, Tanya Hill, an officer with the American embassy said the Black History Month is very important because it helps the "lost" diaspora find a connection to their roots.

Ms Hill, who is an African American, said though she has not traced her descent in Africa, she is proud about everything that makes her African.

She said as a child of the slave trade, she can only trace her genealogical roots to the 19th century.

She, however, said it is very important to African countries to start building bridges with Africans in the diaspora.

This, she said, has become important as it can assist with the socioeconomic development of the continent.

Ms Hills said revaluing the relationship with Africans in the diaspora is a great way to bridge the gap between people of African descent across the globe. She said many black Africans have been doing so through DNA genealogical tracing of their roots,

"It is interesting that we start the discussion with someone who is a child of the diaspora. Many children of the diaspora do not know the element of Africa that they retain. A diaspora is a tremendous number of people flung across every corner of the globe. There is a need to build the bridge across to these people because not knowing what part of Africa a person retains can be a challenge giving the person a lost feel.

"The notion of celebrating the Black History Month in Nigeria is also a way to bridge the gap," she said.

Speaking in a similar vein, Abubakar Liman, who is the Dean of Arts at ABU, called on the Nigerian government to take a serious step towards intercommunication with Africans in the diaspora.

He said African in the diaspora are descendants of African slaves who were carted away in the trans-Sahara and transatlantic slave trade.

The professor of English and Literary Studies said the problem people are facing in Africa is that there seems to be no awareness of Africans outside Nigeria.

He said for Nigeria to properly benefit from the knowledge and skills of African in the diaspora, the country needs to break down the intercommunication differences by setting on a truth commission where all grievances will be laid on the table.

He said the distrust between home Africans and Africans in the diaspora has been a deterrent factor putting off most African Americans and those of other descent off the continent.

Mr Liman said Africa needs to tap into the skills of its diaspora across the world so as to make a significant contribution to the world. More needs to be done in terms of tourism, cultural exchange, social media, and entrepreneurs exchange.

"The descendants of African slaves are the largest people around the world. The new forms of people travelling out in search of better lives have also joined some of the Africans in the diaspora. As at last year, about $9 trillion was believed to have been remitted to Nigeria through this channel.

Mr Liman said it is unfortunate that the government is not tapping into the cash flow to develop the country, unlike India, which he said at some point tapped into the cash flow from its diaspora for development.

"Most of the money sent from abroad goes to the informal sector and that has been what has been making the economy thrive. The bulk of the money from the oil well has been unaccounted as most of it has been carted away," he said.

On the new trend of Africans leaving their countries in search greener abroad, Mabel Evwerhoma said African leaders need to urgently tackle issues that have been causing the emigration.

She said there should be a movement from prejudices, reparation of looted artefacts, and political power to the regeneration of the African economy.

"African leaders should ask what Africans are fleeing from and reposition them. They need to invest more in economic development and good governance.

"We need to counter the negative narration of Africa in the media, especially, the foreign media, she said.


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