Since I’ve been in D.C., it seems like I’ve spent majority of my time going to events, hearings, conferences, speeches and various functions around the topic of Africa. I’ve noticed the more high-level events I go to, the less Africans I see leading or speaking about Africa. Although I would like to see more people of African diaspora at these events, I also know these high-level officials are not the only ones who can make a difference in Africa!
This weekend I attended the 2nd Africa Gathering event in D.C. and I couldn’t help but to be surprised at the amount of African diaspora individuals who not only attended, but listened and took part in sharing ideas, concerns and issues in Africa.
“No one knows African problems like an African. The lives of many ordinary Africans can be improved using the benefits of technology, using African solutions to African problems – sometimes with a helping hand from others.”
Africa Gathering aims to bring those with problems and those with the ability to solve them together. The event started on Nov. 4th at the SAIS (School of Advanced International Studies) with a brainstorming session. People were divided into four groups in areas focusing on: technology, business, good governance, and social entrepreneurship. After the group discussions, each team sent one representative to highlight issues and the solutions they brainstormed.
The representative for the technology team mentioned six issues within Africa: info-structure, human capacity, policy, finances, innovation, and inserting design. In order for these issues to get better: there needs to be leverage on US and government funds, access to more information, public universities, and better marketing on individuals who are sending money back home to Africa.
Much like the technology group’s idea of marketing on the individuals, the business group also stated there needs to be a focus on the diaspora and where their money is going. Due to high risk factors in investing in Africa, the group decided they would create an organization in connection with Western Union called the ‘Angle Diaspora Fund.’ This organization would take a percentage from every money diaspora’s send back home and put towards the fund. This money can be used for African businesses invested by Africans. Although, this might create issues regarding trust and who would run the program, it is a good start.
Up next was the representative from the governance team who’s main focus was on good leadership. Good governance does not always equal good economic, and too much leadership could limit from economic growth. In order to get good governance, there needs to be civic education allowing individuals to hold their government responsible. There also needs to be more empowerment towards youth and women, allowing them to overcome their rights and using media outlets to their advantage. Prime example of this is the April 6 Youth Movement.
“On March 23, 2008, a small group of young Egyptian activists — calling themselves the April 6 Youth Movement — launched a Facebook page in support of a planned textile workers’ strike in the city of Mahalla al-Kobra to protest low wages and high food prices. The group’s leaders included 27-year-old Esraa Abdel Fattah Ahmed Rashid and 27-year-old Ahmed Maher.
The group invited about 300 people to join its Facebook page; within a day it had 3,000 members and within a few weeks, 70,000 had joined the call for strikes across Egypt in support of Mahalla’s workers.”
The last group to go up was the social entrepreneurship group. The representative from that group started out by talking about the qualities in a social entrepreneur and how to find a social entrepreneur. One example the group gave of social entrepreneurship involving women and Africa was the Solar Sisters.
“Solar Sister eradicates energy poverty by empowering women with economic opportunity. Combining the breakthrough potential of solar technology with a deliberately woman-centered direct sales network to bring light, hope and opportunity to even the most remote communities in rural Africa.
Investing in women is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. Solar Sister creates sustainable businesses, powered by smart investment in women entrepreneurs.”
Finally, the night ended by Co-Founder & Curator of Conferences,Mariéme Jamme discussing the importance of grass-root events like Africa Gathering and why we should continue to support and learn from one another. And as I was sitting and hearing what these empowered, highly motivated, and young individuals had to say, I couldn’t help but to be proud of the brainstorming ideas that were exchanged throughout that night and hope that the future in Africa will continue to be in hands of the young people.
“I dream of the realization of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent. ” – Nelson Mandela