ADNE's GDW2015: Closing the gap between Europe and Africa

In the framework of the 2015 Global Diaspora Week (GDW015) -11th -17th October-  African diaspora network in Europe (ADNE) organized a two day meeting with European parliamentarians in Strasbourg.

The GDW is dedicated to diaspora communities and their contributions to global development. It is intended to create awareness, enable collaboration and enhance learning amongst diaspora communities around the world.

This event hosted by MEP Louis Michel on the 6th and 7th October 2015 consisted of a visit to the European Parliament by a delegation of 50 members of African Diaspora across Europe.

The debates focused on EU-Africa Partnership, Migration and Management of Natural resources and fiscal policies in Africa.

This is the 1st time that Members of African Diaspora are invited to the European Parliament as recognized European citizens.

The delegation consisted of the ADNE leadership along with diaspora from various organizations and associations. They brought together the needed expertise for an engaging and meaningful discussion with Members of the European Parliament about the strategic approaches to address the target issues. The event brought to light first hand experiences that will act as a vehicle in steering policies agreed on to address the issues at hand.

“The purpose of the visit is to bring together strategic views and expertise from the diaspora in the fields of migration, management of natural resources and fiscal policies. African Diaspora members are an active force. Europe has the chance to count on a society that is culturally diverse.  This diversity of people must not be seen as a  weakness. It is a great strength and we are here to reflect that reality that is often ignored or denied.” Said Marie Chantal Uwitonze, Founder and President of ADNE.

On the 6th October, the meetings started with the presentation of a manifesto on culture and development and the screening of a comedy movie “BROTHERS” produced by a diaspora movie industry “Town Crier” in collaboration with Nollywood Europe. By way of background, this manifesto was derived from a gathering of African diaspora working together during the European Development Days through a lab session entitled: Culture the lifeblood of Development.

During his opening remark on Culture and Development, MEP Louis Michel delivered a powerful message about the wealth of cultural diversity:

“Every nation has a message of its own to deliver to the world. Every nation, every human being has, by its culture and its positive identity, ways to bring to humanity the genius of its imagination, creativity and the expression of its inner wealth.” Louis Michel

This manifesto presented by the Vice-President of ADNE, Mrs Doreen Walsweer- Sore called for, among others, the need to include culture in all development policies and programs as a tool and lifeblood for sustainable development. It emphasised on the need to sustainably protect, safeguard and promote cultural heritage. It also called for the need to facilitate and promote capacity building activities related to culture and tourism to empower leaders, talents and communities. It was submitted to EU institutions, UN bodies, governments and various NGOs.

The meetings on the first day were enhanced by a debate-dinner hosted by MEP Louis Michel under the topic: Europe and Africa: a vital alliance.

This relaxed dialogue enabled participants to exchange views with MEP Louis Michel on the future of the cooperation between Europe and Africa.

“Africa needs Europe just as Europe needs Africa. Africa and Europe are part of a natural prolongation of each other. Africa and Europe, more than any other international player, have a common destiny forged in the history and an interdependent relationship.” Said Louis Michel

All participants agreed on the fact that the relationship between the two continents has to evolve. It has to move beyond the recipient/ donor relationship towards a partnership between allies who are equal.

The major challenge in Africa is linked to the governance at both political and economic levels. Without governance, Africa will remain in stagnation and probably miss the unique opportunity for economic growth and sustainable development that comes with it. It is therefore important to strengthen African States and good governance. Only strong impartial State are able to organize and assume essential functions that guarantees the universal access to public services ( Education, health systems, infrastructures, justice, security etc.).

“It is incumbent upon Africans to determine their mode of development.The development of Africa cannot be imported”, emphasized MEP Louis Michel.

On the 7th October, the debates focused on the issues of Migration and the management of Natural resources.

In the introduction of the debate on Migration MEP Louis Michel insisted on the need for any European migration policy to distinguish between refugees and economic migrants.

These two types of migratory flows must conform to different approaches and separate instruments. Concerning refugees, EU has a legal obligation and a moral duty to accommodate people fleeing war and persecutions. While a smart policy that is beneficial to all has to be developed for economic migration,it is important to focus on tackling the causes of economic migration at their roots. Therefore, the international cooperation has to strengthen the instruments for the fight against poverty and for sustainable peace and security.

Members of African Diaspora presented their views and provided some key recommendations highlighted below:

“It is essential to strengthen the ownership of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by developing countries especially African countries to enable them to undertake the necessary steps and concrete actions in favour of peace, human rights, democracy, governance, environmental sustainability and poverty eradication, as well as to advance the principles of human dignity, equality and social justice. Working on achieving these objectives is to act directly on the causes of migration.” Henri Desiré N’Zouzi, CEO of Radio M’Bote and Member of ADNE.

In his intervention, Mamadou Alpha Diallo (Phd Student, CEO of Africa Paid and Member of ADNE) emphasised that African Diaspora is an active force for both continents: “According to a study from the International Organization for Migration, over 40% of migrants have a higher level of education than those from host countries.[1]And according to the OECD report of 2014, every migrant contributes nearly 3,500 euros in tax revenue per year. In addition, it is shown that over 80% of skilled migrants return to their home countries and become real development actors. 

Diaspora remittances account for more than three times the Official Development Assistance. If we take the example of Senegal, the remittances from diaspora are estimated at two billion USD/ year. This represents 10.4% of the GDP even if the effects on investment and development remain very low. 

Manel Msalmi (Phd candidate in environmental policy and Member of ADNE) stated that “in the context of the debate on migration, it is timely to engage in a profound reflection on how to tackle climate change and environment degradation as they risk becoming the multipliers of the existing forms of migration.”

Doreen Walsweer-Sore, Vice President of ADNE stated that Migration is becoming a human phenomenon; migrants are moving away from political and economic hardships in their own countries, while others do so in order to pursue opportunities for personal development.  

Furthermore, she explained that under the ACP – EU Partnership, migration is seen at as part of human security and development. The ACP has sought to pursue the avenues that ensure they promote peace, security and stability, the promotion of stable and democratic political environment. In so doing it is hoped that these will reduce the threat that cause migration. She applauded the recent decisions of EU Heads of Government aimed at a more humanitarian approach to the migration crisis. This approach on its own will not suffice, a long term solution that moves towards developing avenues for regular and orderly migration is urgently needed .

In a press statement released a week before, the President of ADNE, Marie Chantal Uwitonze, emphasized that legal migration is an opportunity for Europe and Africa as it could provide an important platform in the fight against illegal migration and the networks of smugglers and traffickers of human beings.

She recalled that the Humanity has always been in movement and that migration has allowed people to benefit from the experiences from different nations. These human exchanges enrich humanity and shape the world.  The press Statement called the European Union, the African Union and the United Nations to strengthen international cooperation with regard to migration in order to create legal channels of migration and strengthen the integration of migrants. It also highlighted the need to reinvigorate the Euro-African dialogue on migration and mobility to allow the free movement of students and workers which is beneficial to all continents.

This debate was also attended by MEP Mariya Gabriel who commended this initiative that is highly needed in order to foster mutual understanding and promote the wider involvement of African diaspora in decision making process.

 

Other interventions, primarily, from Erika Kaneza, Sangwa Rwabuhihi, Drea Chuma, James Ololo and Modi Ntambwe recalled the fact that the discussions about migration have to take into account the evolution on both sides.

The issue of brain drain cannot be discussed the same way as it used to 20years ago. Countries with conducive environments and regulations that enable job creation are already registering significant numbers of returnees. Both EU and Africa should work together to facilitate the creation of such environments. They have to reconsider their approach on this matter and also take into account the need of mobility which is a human principle, said Sangwa Rwabuhihi, a software engineer based in Germany and member of ADNE.

In her intervention, Andreattah Chuma, an IT Auditor/Certified Fraud Examiner, highlighted the fact that there is also economic migration that concerns Europeans going to Africa that occupy qualified employment and raising the level of competition what can also lead to the brain drain. She added that this nuance needs to be there when we talk about economic migration which is happening on both sides. She expressed that assistance is needed from African leaders and home countries not perceiving returning skilled workers as of a lower standard than European counterparts.

With respect to the global EU-Africa cooperation approach, Erika Kaneza, Founder at Dare Authenticity and Member of ADNE highlighted the important role played by the level of human development. She called for more capacity building for African leaders mainly the elders who are still living with archaic  mentality and possibly haunted by the decades of domination and colonialism.

The second part of the debate on the 7th October focused on natural resources management and Fiscal policies.

The debate was enhanced by the presence of MEP Linda MacAvan Chair of European Parliament’s Development Committee, MEP Hilde Vautmans and MEP Bodgan Wenta.

 

Both MEPs highlighted the need for an efficient approach that would be an enabler to leverage the benefits of natural resources for the sustainable development of Africa.

In his speech MEP Louis Michel delivered a scathing remark on the poor management of African natural resources management and offered some recommendations on how to improve the situation towards the optimal management of these resources.

“Africa is the second largest continent in the world with huge proportion of the natural resources of the planet, both renewable and non-renewable. Nevertheless Africa is the continent where poverty persists in its most dramatic form.”

Among the recommendations are:

-          Strengthening good governance of natural resources and fight against corruption;

-        Combat natural resources conflicts by promoting the application of OECD Guide at the international stage. He applauded the adoption by the European Parliament of a mandatory regulation with regards to the fight against conflict minerals. He was one of the driving forces for the EU Report mainly thanks to his amendments that carry out a mandatory Regulation for the whole supply chain, in conformity with the OECD Guidelines which gradually adapts the obligations to the position and roles of Companies and takes into account the particular position of SMEs. The adopted position imposes an information obligation for downstream companies.  He also advocated for an integrated EU approach and the adoption of a legislative proposal containing effective accompanying measures which are aimed at increasing international cooperation for a global application of OECD guidance in order to induce changes in the third countries;

-          The establishment of effective tax systems and the fight against tax evasion: It is essential to promote the development of tax systems, the fight against tax evasion, tax avoidance and tax fraud in Africa. It is only through the mobilization of revenues from available natural resources that it is possible to get the most benefit for all. Optimal taxation strengthens good governance and reinforces the State by promoting stable governments’ budgets and enabling ownership of their political choices;

-          Taxation is one of the essential conditions for sustaining African countries’ exit from aid dependence and promoting universal access to public services;

-          He also recommended the creation of national funds for revenue redistribution in order to build up reserves for future generations.

Speaking about the economic and social implications of raw material price fluctuation in Africa, Annie Mutamba, CEO of Meridia Partners, explained that Africa has a large supply of natural resources and raw materials in both agriculture and mining. However, ‘poverty remains while wealth leaves the countries’.

 She further asked whether a win-win situation was possible between the EU’s growing needs, on the one hand, and Africa’s assets, on the other hand.

She emphasised that "increasing demand for raw materials and their high volatility of prices are clear and tangible effects of globalization which, in turn, have harmful consequences for many African states’ budgets:  unpredictable revenue for states, producers and suppliers; lower investments and public spending.”

African states still have to develop effective strategies and tools to mitigate market price fluctuations.

She concluded by calling EU and Africa to establish an EU’s raw materials strategy that is coherent with its development policies towards Africa.

In his address on fiscal policies, Dr. Chinedu Madichie, Member of ADNE, called on the European and African policy makers to ensure that the natural resources are fairly utilized to the benefit of the African continent.  He insisted that the EU terms of engagement with Africa should be based on balanced partnership that ensures fair process for natural resources, equity in international trade, dialogue transparency & mutual respect and benefits.

EU and Africa have to work together to strengthen Ownership by Natural resource-rich countries in order to enable them to enter into contracts that are based on mutual respect and equity,  and that give to these countries a superior bargaining position when negotiating natural resources prices.

He added that effective fiscal policies are undeniably essential for the mainstreaming of natural resource exploitation into national economic development programs. EU has to encourage good governance of natural resources mainly the establishment of effective tax systems which are essential for the fight against corruption. With efficient fiscal policies, natural resources could realistically provide a well-balanced economy for everyone who lives in Africa.

Speaking on behalf of Rwandan Diaspora, Mr. Manzi Bakuramutsa explained one promising mechanism for regional management of Natural resources. The ICGLR (International Conference for Great Lakes Region) Regional Initiative for the exploitation of natural resources launch in 2014 enabled the countries of the Great Lakes Region to fight against the financing of conflicts through the trade of minerals by promoting traceability and transparency in the supply chain of minerals.

Speaking about the creation of natural resource processing industries, Marie Chantal Uwitonze, recalled the importance of industrialization in Development.

Industrialization is a key driver of economic development. According to the World Bank, the share of African industry in the world manufacturing production was only about 1% in 2011 whilst it was about 25% for Asian industries.

The industrial sector strengthens the competitiveness and proficiencies of domestic firms and promotes structural change. Fiscal policies play an important role by enabling the State to have the means for its long-term planning.  Industrialization in Africa cannot be dissociated from the taxation of natural resources. If African governments had sufficient budgets, this would fund the transformation agenda of the continent. Natural resources of the continent will not serve economic growth and human development if they continue to be sold as raw material without the possibility for processing.

The economic history of Europe is a proof that industrialization is the phase that allows a society to enter a new economic era.

In Europe, it is the industrial revolution that enabled the significant change from a predominantly agrarian and artisanal society to a commercial and industrial society. This process was fostered by the development of rail transport which helped in modernizing the agricultural sector, the economy and thus the society.

No one invents development. It is urgent that the development cooperation policy goes beyond the charitable nature to focus on the construction of the true pillars of development mainly the development of private sector, processing industries and the establishment of sound fiscal policies.

The interactions offered fresh perspective on the issues.

The members of the European Parliament were impressed by the quality of interventions from the diaspora members and called for a permanent dialogue between African Diaspora and European institutions.

This initiative is an example of the needed debate between European institutions and African diaspora. African Diaspora members have to be recognized as important actors  for both host countries and countries of origin. Nowadays, the number of people living outside their country of origin is increasing significantly due to  globalization. Diaspora members are key actors in building a shared prosperity not only by the transfer of remittances but also by the transfer of knowledge and by enabling intercultural exchanges. No country should overlook the importance of diaspora.

Discover more pictures from this event: Photos Copyright: Jean-Jacques Beyne, Lilian Nabora Photography, Karirima Ngarambe, Ghislian Zobiyo