The Global African Diaspora Summit is currently in session in Johannesburg, with top-level gatherings taking place ahead of the main event on Africa Day on 25 May.
The event is an initiative of the Addis Ababa-based African Union (AU) and the South African government. It takes place under the theme Towards the Realisation of a United and Integrated Africa and its Diaspora.
The summit’s main aim, according to the AU, is to discuss how best to harness skills and energies within the continent and abroad to boost socio-economic development in Africa, and to facilitate innovation and entrepreneurship through sustainable partnerships with the African Diaspora.
At a pre-summit gathering held on 23 May to welcome delegates, South Africa’s international relations minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said that setting up partnerships with African citizens living off the continent would be a priority outcome for the summit.
The strengthening of pan-African solidarity is another important goal that will result in a better life for the continent’s people, said Nkoana-Mashabane.
"This is Africa's effort to reach out to its sons and daughters out there in other parts of the world, to affirm our collective identity and marshal our forces for a better Africa and a better world.”
This summit should be just one of the mechanisms adopted in efforts aimed at fostering a dialogue that will create lasting and more sustainable solutions for the continent, said Jerry Matjila, director-general of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, in his closing speech.
"For our part as South Africa, we recommit ourselves to working with all whose ideals and vision is part of what we espouse for the future of this continent, and its diaspora."
Brand South Africa's CEO Miller Matola too addressed the delegates and reflected on the significance of the event.
Harnessing the energy of Africa
According to official reports, 64 leaders from African countries, AU organs, and organisations working within the diaspora, will attend the Johannesburg summit. About 500 representatives of government, academia, business and civil society are expected.
The date of the event was decided upon at the 18th ordinary session of the AU, held in January 2012, although the endorsement of South Africa as host happened back in 2006, at the organisation’s eighth ordinary session in 2006.
AU leaders wish to mobilise African citizens within the continent and in the diaspora, to support the acceleration of the agenda of African integration and development.
The decision marked the culmination of a long process of consultations and meetings between the African continent and its diaspora counterparts.
In 2003, at the first extraordinary session of AU heads of state, a decision was taken to integrate the African diaspora into the policy framework of the AU.
This was done by amending the Constitutive Act, to provide a new article that invites and provides full participation of the African Diaspora as an important part of the continent – although this amendment has not yet come into force.