What was the score?
No, dear readers of my column, ADCC is not a football club, but stands for African Diaspora Community Council. You may recall the article “The African Union (AU) recognises and values its Diaspora” in The African Bulletin (TAB) of December 2007. This is about the innovative and inspiring idea of the AU for Africans in the Diaspora getting involved in the development of Africa. You may still have your hard copy of TAB to refer to, but if you can be on the internet, go to www.mediablackberry.com and click on ‘archive’!
What is the ADCC all about?
As you may recall or reread, the South Africa through their Embassies was charged to assist in mobilising the African Diaspora by stimulating the formation of an ADCC in as many countries with an African Diaspora as possible. Thanks to the dedicated, committed and above all inspiring drive of the (now former) South African Ambassador to The Netherlands, Mrs. Hlengiwe B. Mhkize, the ADCC Holland was created in March 2007. Initially the process involved a broad consultation carried out with the assistance of PANAFSTRAG, (Pan-African Strategic Research and Peace Group www.panafstrag.org), before ADCC Holland was created.
How did ADCC develop?
ADCC Holland then moved to hold content consultations along the topics indicated by the AU. These were: Global dialogue, international relations peace and security; Economic Co-operation and Sustainable Development; Historical, socio-cultural and religious commonalities and challenges. Other subjects were: Women and children; Knowledge sharing; Health and well-being; Youth and development. The results of these consultations were carried forward to a two day meeting in Paris in September 2007, attended by ADCC representatives of various European countries, like Sweden, Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark and Holland of course.
The Paris meeting established the scope of the abovementioned themes and recommended to form commissions along these topics. It also asked the ADCC in various countries to come up with project proposals for implementation in Africa, engaging the African Diaspora in Europe.
ADCC Holland took up this challenge with great enthusiasm and drive and encouraged members of the African Diaspora in The Netherlands to sign up to the various commissions. What they then had to do was to look at the scope of their specific focus, like ‘Knowledge sharing’ or ‘Women and Children’ and draft project proposals. These projects were to involve at least two or more African countries, and after approval to be funded through the AU.
So what did they come up with?
At the ADCC meeting of 20th September 2008, three draft projects were presented in the framework of the Knowledge Sharing Commission. Mr. Kenneth Robinson, who also happens to be the Chairperson of the ADCC, presented the ‘ICT on demand’ project, which entails the promotion of ICT in Africa through ‘Quality Education Circles’, meaning the participation between a number of neighbouring countries within a region, with a lead country among them. He also mentioned that working with the EU, on which level a steering group might be established, was one of the ideas.
Next Dr Donny Aminou, a Cameroonian working with the European Space Agency, explained how minimal the participation of Africa was in using space-based technology. Even though Nigeria, Algeria and South Africa had their satellites in space, Africa as a whole was totally dependent on the ‘developed’ world. He continued to demonstrate, to the amazement of his audience, that it would be quite possible for Africa to have its necessary communication satellites in space, given the cooperation (political will) and that money would not be the obstacle.
Finally Dr. Artwell Cain elaborated on the proposed ‘Centre for Development of Leadership and Social Mobility Strategies’. His detailed explanation of the various aspects of leadership, especially with the underlying mental, spiritual, intelligent and knowledgably qualities, relating to Personal performance, Image building and Exposure impressed the audience.
Concluding it must be said that these courageous and innovative proposals are still very much on the drawing board. Many details still have to be worked out and the feasibility in the field still to be investigated, let alone realistic cost estimation to be made and financing modes to be set up.
There is also a Facilitators Working Group, what do they do?
This group was set up in close collaboration with PANAFSTRAG; was involved in starting up the ADCC and is still closely following it, giving advice. As the ADCC is now afoot I am wondering and others with me, what the present mandate of the Facilitators Working Group is.
It is also confusing that there are two websites where information can be found about the response of the African Diaspora in the Netherlands to the call of the AU. ADCC’s website http://www.africanunion.nl/ gives the basic facts about the beginning and setup in Holland as well as pictures of the first councillors. The general layout and look of the website is modest and reflects ADCC Holland’s humble beginning. The website http://www.au6thregionfwg.nl/main/intro.htm apparently setup by the Facilitators Working Group, assisted by PANAFSTRAG, I guess, is very detailed. It describes the whole process, from AU’s first realisation of the importance and value of the African Diaspora to the present situation of formation of ADCC’s in various countries and their rapport with the AU. On the other hand much of the information are links to speeches by members if the group.
The outlook makes a slick impression with illustrations of African symbols, like shields and pictures of famous African royalty. Given that this is largely about the African Diaspora, wouldn’t it have been appropriate to show some pictures of famous early Africans in Europe? The two websites seem to be competing as they conspicuously do not feature links to each other.
What happened further at the 20th September meeting?
At this meeting the South African Ambassador to The Netherlands, Mrs. Hlengiwe B. Mhkize announced and confirmed that she had decided to resign. She had wanted to stay longer in her post, but could not resist the persistent invitations to become the Treasurer-General of the Women’s League of the ANC in South Africa. Special tribute was paid to her by members of her staff as well as members of the ADCC, recognising her inspiring and unflagging support. Her personal interest in stimulating the African Diaspora to get engaged in Africa’s development was also mentioned. It is hoped that the new ambassador will also give the much needed support and encouragement to the ADCC.
Concluding what can be said?
The ADCC has made an encouraging start considering its very fresh and relatively short track record. However I have the impression that its base of support is rather too small and narrow to be able to sustain it. The membership consists mostly of interested individuals and although their background, nationality, education, provides a welcome variety, there is little or limited link to the broad spectrum of the African Diaspora in the Netherlands, not to mention their organisational structure. In my opinion ADCC needs to link up or even sign a form of strategic alliance with major Diaspora NGO’s. I also doubt very much the usefulness of creating Sub-Regional ADCC’s in every province of the Netherlands. Though this is the official (government) structure, it does not apply to a non-government organisation as the ADCC and moreover will be least effective. ADCC’s organisational sub-structure at the level of its host country should follow where its potential members, the bulk of the African Diaspora are. This is in and around major cities like Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht, but also around cities with Universities like Nijmegen, Eindhoven, Maastricht, Groningen en Leeuwarden. In each of these places a Sub-Regional ADCC could be set up, depending on the interest and enthusiasm of the African Diaspora there. In this way the ADCC could get its much needed broad support in the Netherlands
*Mr. Ato Bob is a former Dutch Diplomat who now consults with various NGO’s on African issues. He lives in Rotterdam and may be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org