Address by President Jacob Zuma, on the occasion of the Gala Dinner in honour of delegates to the African Diaspora Summit, Sandton Convention Centre
24 May 2012
Excellency the chairperson of the African Union (AU), Excellency President Bon Yayi,
Excellencies Heads of State and Government;
Former Heads of State,
Excellency Chairperson of AU Commission, Mr Jean Ping,
Honourable Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Premiers and members of Parliaments,
Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners;
Leaders of Political Parties,
Business, Community, religious and traditional authorities sectors,
Good evening to you all.
Allow me, on behalf of the people and the Government of the Republic of South Africa, to welcome you to the City of Johannesburg and our beautiful country.
We thank you for responding affirmatively to the call by the African Union to gather here to discuss matters that are of interest to all people of African descent.
We also thank the African Union for the opportunity given to our country to host this historic Summit.
This gathering coincides with two significant events in the history of our Continent, and in particular, our struggle for liberation.
Firstly, South Africa is celebrating the Centenary of the oldest liberation movement in Africa, the African National Congress (ANC).
It is therefore an honour for our country to host Africa and its diaspora during the centenary of the ANC, given the solidarity that our people received when fighting the monster that was colonial oppression and apartheid. Our struggle became that of the continent and the diaspora, and our victory, your victory.
Secondly, tomorrow we mark Africa Day and the 10th anniversary of the African Union, a celebration which reaffirms Pan-Africanism and the passion and goal of African unity and progress.
The goal of achieving equality, freedom, unity and respect for the African people informed the actions of the Pan-Africanists across Africa and the diaspora, inspired by among others Marcus Garvey.
This spirit also drove the founding fathers of a free African continent, from Kwame Nkrumah to Mwalimu Julius Nyerere among others.
This wave of Pan-Africanism has had outstanding achievements. It informed the establishment of the earliest modern black nations, for example Haiti and Sierra Leone.
It informed the formation of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963, which played a pivotal role in promoting African unity and liberation, through supporting liberation movements in the continent.
That spirit of Pan-Africanism must inspire us in this Summit, as we work to achieve the goals outlined by the theme of the conference, "Towards the Realisation of a United and Integrated Africa and its Diaspora".
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is also important that this summit is taking place in the African continent. As you would be aware, all major Pan-African congresses took place in Europe and the United States.
In 1900, a congress was held in London. The second held sessions in London, Paris and Brussels in 1919, London again in 1921, London and Lisbon in 1923, New York in 1927 and finally Manchester in 1945. All these were the efforts of the Diaspora.
Deliberations and resolutions at these congresses set the stage for the eventual home-coming of Pan-Africanism.
And the first Pan African Congress on African soil was held in Accra, Ghana in 1958.
We are now one people, and must work together for the betterment of the peoples of African descent, regardless of geographical borders.
At this summit, we must grapple with how to involve the diaspora in the affairs of the continent and the AU in particular, in a more formal manner.
Two key conferences took landmark resolutions on the relationship. These were the Declaration of the first Conference of Intellectuals from Africa and the Diaspora which was held in Senegal in 2004 and the second Conference which was held in Brazil in 2006.
The two conferences subscribed to the idea of making the Diaspora the sixth region of the African Union. The delegates resolved to recognise the African Diaspora as a substantive entity contributing to the economic and social development of the Continent. The delegates recommended that the diaspora be invited to participate as observers to sessions of the Assembly of the African Union.
This matter is currently before the AU.
As we meet we cannot ignore the past that has brought us together.
We cannot forget that in the most shameful and horrific occurrences in the history of mankind, between the years 1500 and 1900, approximately four million enslaved Africans were transported to island plantations in the Indian Ocean.
About eight million were shipped to countries in the Mediterranean.
The colonisation of African countries and the dehumanisation of millions of people is a matter of historical record. Many developed nations do not want to be reminded about that era, as was evident during the World Conference against Racism in Durban a few years ago.
We triumphed over colonialism and apartheid across the continent, and are now focusing on achieving sustainable peace, development and prosperity.
Politically, Africa has come from being the notorious continent with 16 raging wars in 2002, to a continent which is fast achieving peace and stability.
The spread of peace and good governance is providing Africa’s entrepreneurs with the necessary conducive environment to promote themselves and establish their industries.
The formation of the AU in Durban underscored the importance of economic emancipation, hence the focal role of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development in that launch.
Today, we stand proud of the fact that Africa has moved from being the so-called hopeless Continent to being a rising star, politically and economically.
The economic signs are good. According to the International Monetary Fund figures, region-wide gross domestic product (GDP) growth has averaged 5.5% from 2000 to 2010. This is more than double the rate we had in Africa during the 1980s and 1990s.
It is remarkable that six of the world’s fastest ten growing economies were African. In eight of the past ten years, Africa has grown faster than East Asia. Africa is indeed rising.
The dream outlined in April 1906 by Pixley ka Isaka Seme in his seminal essay entitled "The Regeneration of Africa" may be just be realised in our lifetime.
He said in that timeless Pan-African piece; "The brighter day is rising upon Africa. Already I seem to see her chains dissolved, her desert plains red with harvest, her Abyssinia and her Zululand the seats of science and religion, reflecting the glory of the rising sun from the spires of their churches and universities.
Her Congo and her Gambia whitened with commerce, her crowded cities sending forth the hum of business, and all her sons employed in advancing the victories of peace-greater and more abiding than the spoils of war."
Naturally, we want to see Africa's growth acceleration being widespread and also fairly inclusive, with the poorest seeing significant improvements in their lives.
That is why it is of concern that while the world is three years away from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline of 2015, we face the threat of Africa not meeting this deadline.
This is one task that the AU Commission must be pre-occupied with.
We must therefore tap on the knowledge and skills of the Diaspora to help create a meaningful leadership path for the AU, towards the realisation of the MDG’s.
We must ensure that our children – both girls and boys – are healthy, educated and skilled so as to ensure adequate human resources for Africa’s economic development.
Without education, the realisation of our total emancipation will remain nothing but a wish.
We are not referring to education systems that were designed to produce people who would participate in the process of perpetuating colonial rule. Our people must be freed from an education that sought to promote underdevelopment, powerlessness, dependency and confusion.
We must decolonise the mind and spirit and reverse African self-hate and Afro-pessimism. We must promote the principles of self love, Afro-optimism, ubuntu and the respect for human worth and human dignity.
When a new African arises who is proud of his or her continent and defines Africa in his or her own terms and not those of others, we will have achieved full emancipation.
There is no doubt that what we are seeing are only the first rays of light. Glorious Africa is yet to reveal herself. And it is our responsibility to work tirelessly to unleash this continent to prove to the world that indeed, here in Africa, where humanity began, is where the future lies.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to South Africa and may we have a most successful summit.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency
24 May 2012
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