It is with great pleasure that we bring this report to you on our recent participation in the 2016 Kenya Diaspora Conference held in Atlanta Georgia June 24-25, 2016 at the Georgia Institute of Technology. This was an extraordinary meeting by educators, professionals and business persons from the Kenyan community in the Diaspora to discuss the issues facing developments in Kenya and Africa as a whole.
Navigating our way to the conference venue on Friday morning was a bit tedious but we finally found our way after a few phone calls. After arriving at the student center we met our contact person, Dr. Juliana Mwose, assistant professor of Nursing at St. Mary’s College in Indiana. She warmly greeted us as we settled down to listen to the agenda for the conference.
Friday’s conference was primarily focused on the contribution to Kenya by the Kenyan Diasporan community. It was reported that the Diasporan Kenyan communities contributed over one and a half billion dollars to the economy of Kenya in 2015. With this kind of contribution to the GNP, the Diasporan Kenyan communities feel that they should have a voice in the decision making process governing their society although they reside outside the country of Kenya in a foreign land. It was strongly stressed to the Kenyan government officials in attendance to take the message back that the Diasporan Kenyan communities want the right to vote in their homeland Kenya. Other issues such as health, education and the support for the youth were also discussed during Friday’s presentation.
Saturday’s session focused primarily on business opportunities in Kenya and business development by the Kenyans in the United States. One presenter explained how his real estate company has developed resort businesses in different parts of the United States where Kenyans can purchase their own land.
A young Kenyan by the name of Mr. Jacob Maaga laid out his plans to develop a Pan African Exchange that would empower economic growth throughout the whole of Africa. This would give African businesses some control over the price of their commodities on the world market. Investment in Africa’s future growth can take place electronically at the push of a button on one’s computer. This young businessman said they have already set up the exchange in Zambia with plans for expansion to different parts of Africa in the very near future. The machinery will be in place, he said, where the ordinary small investor can purchase stocks and bonds to propel the growth of African businesses.
The conference ended with a presentation on the African Union by Chief Tunde Adetunji of the Africa Heritage Foundation Inc. The theme of his presentation was bridging the gap between Africa and the Diaspora. His foundation is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. He emphasized the urgent need for Africans in Africa and the Diaspora to come together. He said that Africa needs not only the monetary contributions being made through remittances but also the technological and innovative talent that Africans, both indigenous and historical, have that can support Africa’s future independent growth. This call is urgently needed to avoid plans by the Chinese government to export large numbers of their population onto the African continent. The Constitutive Act established by the African Union circa 2005 established the Diaspora as the Sixth Region of Africa. Chief Adetunji said this act calling for the Sixth Region refers to all Africans living outside of Africa to be a part of the Sixth Region of Africa. This would include both indigenous and historical Africans in the Diaspora.
He said that any African that can contribute resources and capacity to Africa is a part of the Sixth Region of Africa. He said that he has been advocating the creation of the Sixth Region since 1996. The question of representation into the African Union by the Diasporan communities, he said, should be open to any African in the Diaspora since many Africans living outside Africa have become citizens of their newly adopted countries. There were no discussions on methodology on how this would be done, but it seems like more discussion between the two Diasporan communities would help move the Diaspora closer to realizing the Sixth Region of Africa.
This was a welcome experience to interact with fellow Africans from Kenya who express that we need more dialogue between those new arrivals from the Continent and those Africans who are descendants of the European Slave Trade.
Since many of the new arrivals are now raising children in their new home away from the African Continent, there is a need for information on how the historical Africans have coped with survival in America. It was gratifying to meet a number of Kenyans who see Kenya’s problems as a Pan African problem. The road map to the future looks brighter as we move to reclaim our identity as Global Africans to rebuild the African continent for the future for African people.
With undying love for Africa,
SRDC- South Carolina