Ambassadors Series Africa Panel #3: African Solutions to African Problems brought United Nations diplomats from Botswana, Chad, and Burundi together with academics, experts, and civil society to discuss global issues and exchange multiple perspectives. The event was held on May 14, 2014, at the Peace Islands Institute in New York (PIINY) in partnership with the Journalists and Writers Foundation.
Africa has suffered from a prolonged negative image. It is seen as a war-filled, diseased, and poverty-ridden region, when in fact it has changed dramatically … Africa continues to grow in potential motivated largely by its vast youth and diaspora populations.
Key topics discussed by the panel
The president and CEO of the African Heritage Foundation, H.E. Tunde Adetunji, moderated the panel discussion. Speeches were given by H.E Charles T. Ntwaagae, Permanent Representative of Botswana; H.E Cherif Mahamat Zene, Permanent Representative of Chad; and H.E Hermenegilde Niyonzima, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Burundi.
African diaspora as the sixth region of Africa
The panel began with the moderator discussing how far Africa has come in terms of its development. Africa has always been coveted by other nations for its resources. The world’s attention had been pivoting toward China and India, but recent headlines seem to be focusing on Africa’s foreign direct investment, labor force capacity, and natural resources.
Another focus has been the educated African diaspora, known as the sixth region of Africa. The potential lost from the brain drain of Africans in pursuit of education, health, and opportunity is a challenge for the continent. An initiative has been set to change the brain drain into a brain gain and bring back the diaspora to help Africa move forward.
Peace and Security
An area that was mentioned repeatedly among the panelists was peace and security. This continues to be a major issue for the continent. A country afflicted by unstable and dangerous conditions cannot move forward to focus on other areas of development, as has been the case for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Somalia, and Sudan. Poverty, education, and youth unemployment also continue to be challenges for Africa. These are chronic problems that are based on past grievances dating back to the time of African countries’ independence.
Rebranding Africa’s image in the world
Speakers addressed the fact that Africa has suffered from a prolonged negative image, which negates the progress the continent has made since many countries’ independence. Africa is seen as a war-filled, diseased, and poverty-ridden region, when in fact it has changed dramatically. In the political sphere, many countries have gravitated towards liberal democracies. Economically, many African countries have embraced a free market economy. Major improvements have been made in health, education, and overall living conditions. Budgets have been purposely redirected toward these areas, leading to observable positive effects. In particular, the example of Botswana shows how a country can transition from being overrun by an HIV epidemic to being able to provide medical aid to 95 percent of citizens in need of treatment.
In additional to political and social reform, financial aid also continues to be a hopeful area for Africa. The donor/recipient relationship has shifted to more of a partnership. This type of venture can be seen in the public and private sector as well, known as PPP, or public-private partnerships.
Overall, education, development, and the diaspora’s potential to propel Africa forward were the panel’s key takeaway messages. Africa still has many challenges ahead of it, but it continues to grow in potential motivated largely by its vast youth and diaspora populations.