24 April 2006
African leaders must build bridges to Africans living outside of the continent, says former Zambian president Kenneth Kuanda.
Kaunda was speaking to journalists in Johannesburg on Friday after the latest African Presidential Roundtable, an annual meeting in which former African presidents review progress on the establishment of democracy and good governance around the continent.
During their two-day meeting at the University of the Witwatersrand, the seven former presidents attending this year’s Roundtable focused their discussions on Africans in the diaspora.
Noting that African Americans earned an annual aggregate income of around US$750-billion, Kaunda said this economic potential needed to be harnessed for Africa’s development.
40 000 African PhDs
Besides helping to boost African economies, tapping the talent in the diaspora could help reverse skills shortage in Africa.
“There are 200 000 African scientists in the United States, which is more than we have on the entire continent,” Kaunda said. “There are 40 000 African PhDs living outside the continent.
“It is important to do more than lay out a welcome mat to encourage our brothers and sisters to come back home.
“We must develop strategies to recruit and encourage and demonstrate that we are serious about their return. The strategies for doing so start with African leaders leading the way in building a bridge to the diaspora.
“The time for talk and romanticising the necessity for coming together is past. The time is now for action,” Kaunda said.
Telling Africa’s story
The Roundtable also suggested the development of a multimedia campaign and a strategy to engage major media outlets in order to encourage a more “fair and balanced” coverage of the continent.
“A plan should be devised to encourage more American non-governmental organisations and non-commercial media forums to create new paradigms for training Western and African journalists covering emerging African democracies,” Kaunda said.
“A strategy must be developed to encourage leading American schools of journalism and journalism organisations to develop specific tracks for covering emerging economies and developing democracies, particularly in Africa.”