Diaspora ready to invest in Africa
• By Vitalio Angula
MANY are called, but few are chosen! This quote, from the Holy Bible, of the Christian faith, is synonymous with Dr Arikana Chihombori-Quao, who on October 07, received marching orders that she would no longer be the African Union (AU) Permanent Ambassador to the United States of America (USA).
Her dismissal came after she had given an explosive speech on the need to dismantle the ‘neo-colonial’ arrangement Africa has with the ‘imperial west’. In an effort to dismantle the notion that Africa is the ‘dark continent’ riddled with disease, corruption and bad leaders.
Arikana attempted to change that narrative by re-instilling hope in many Africans living outside of the continent.
This group is often referred to as the diaspora!
She rekindled hope that if Africans in the diaspora could commit to changing the narrative about their motherland, they could re-build the continent, and make it a formidable force to be reckoned with on the global stage.
Her dismissal ushered her into a new chapter on her journey towards creating the ‘Africa We Want’ with the establishment of the Africa Diaspora and Development Institution (ADDI).
The organisation has a mission to re-connect people of African descent around the world with their roots in Africa.
This journey towards creating the ‘Africa We Want’ brought her to Namibia, where in collaboration with Namibian based TransKunene Consulting services, she aims at attracting investment within the country through win-win partnerships with local entrepreneurs both large and small scale.
“During my tenure as the AU Ambassador to the USA, one thing became very apparent to me, one of my mandates included mobilisation of the African Diaspora. As I went around speaking and addressing the African Diaspora, I quickly realised that their understanding of what was going on in Africa was very limited and off course this was by design,” Arikana informed a packed audience gathered in the capitals Hilton Hotel.
“There is this perception amongst the diaspora that corruption was the beginning, the middle and the end to Africa’s problems, and if we could simply change the leaders, everything in Africa would begin to change,” Arikana exclaimed, as she provided insight on the challenges the continent faces and proposed solutions on how these challenges can be overcome.
“ADDI is an entity that was designed to mobilise African Diaspora to participate in the development of Africa. We understand that capacity building is what Africa needs today. As we speak today, there isn’t a single African country that can build a railway line. That has the capacity to build an airport, but as Africans together we can!” Arikana suggested.
Arikana arrived in Windhoek in mid- October with a delegation that consisted of ADDI Vice President, Damian Cook, medical practitioners, Cassandra and Lee Whittaker, and investment banker, Vernon Sints.
Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Cassandra Whitaker, who practices medicine in the Virgin Islands said the diaspora is looking at opportunities on the continent in which they could partake in order to improve the living condition of its citizens.
“We want to be here because Africa is our home. It is where our heart is. It is in our DNA. As a diaspora we want to return and we want to make a difference. Our skills are numerous and we want to be on the continent to share those talents and skills,” Whitaker said.
Her husband Lee Whitaker, a family physician and veteran of the Vietnam War, identified himself as an adult descendent of African slaves.
Quoting Kwame Nkrumah, Whitaker asserted, “I am not African because I was born in Africa, I am African because Africa was born in me”.
“That leaves a hole and a longing in your heart for identity such that it has probably led to one of the most severe mental health crises in the USA that has yet to be addressed,” Whitaker suggested.
“There are African Americans in America who don’t know who they are. When you hear about them acting all wild in the US it’s because they don’t know who they are. They haven’t heard the story. They don’t know the history,” Whitaker exclaimed.
“We all need to come onto the same page so that we can work together and stop believing the false narrative. We need to join hands and lift each other up and move forward to break the economic sanctions and barriers that have kept us apart and the only way we can do that is to embrace one another in love and economics,” Whitaker suggested.
“There are thousands upon thousands of ADDI members who are waiting to meet you and there are hundreds of doctors in ADDI who would like to meet you as well,” Whitaker informed the audience.
ADDI Vice President Damian Cook spoke on the ‘filters’ that distort the diaspora’s perspective on Africa.
He spoke about the ‘invisible hand’ that doesn’t allow for the real story about Africa’s potential for business and industry to be told.
“We look forward to developing a relationship with everyone in this room and we are so excited,” Cook informed the guest gathered to explore partnership opportunities with willing investors from the diaspora.
“We are so excited to finally be able to partner with our people and there are so many coming behind us, we are coming with a force of economic and socio-cultural liberation because we are one and this is just the beginning,” Cook informed the gathering.
Dr. Arikana’s delegation visited a woman led poultry project at Eenhana in northern Namibia where they partnered with locals to produce chickens and eggs for domestic consumption.
A similar project has already been established in Zimbabwe and Dr. Arikana believes the model can work in Namibia.
“We are here, the plan is to open our ADDI office right here in Namibia,” Arikana announced.
“When we come together, nothing can stop us,” Arikana said.
The former AU Ambassador also announced a planned African Diaspora Pan African Congress (ADPAC) scheduled to take place from the 09 to the 16 April 2023 at the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe where they are hoping to sign the Victoria Falls Declaration where they will be tabling their demands and asking the Heads of State of Africa through the AU to create a pathway to citizenship for the children of Africa, Descendants of the Formerly Enslaved.
“We are also going to be asking for preferential treatment for all contracts that are deemed international. Before they can look to the west, before they can look to the east, they must look to their children in the diaspora for filling these contracts,” Dr. Arikana announced.
“We are also saying African Heads of State, you have unfinished business. We appreciate you declaring that all people of African descent are the Sixth Region and for that we thank you, however just putting it into the AU Constitution is not enough. The Sixth Region must be established like ECOWAS, SADC, the EAC, Central Africa and North Africa. We will be asking the Heads of State to look at that issue seriously for we need to be involved at every level in the rebuilding of the Arica We Want, starting right here in Africa,” Arikana said.
Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao’s week long journey to Namibia culminated with an official visit to the Queen of Uukwanyama, Martha Mwadinomho Kristian Nelumbu, at her palace in Northern Namibia.
The Oukwanyama are the largest ethnic group in Namibia.
Arikana’s trip was her third in Africa after visiting Ghana and Zimbabwe on a similar mission to sensitize Africans and draw awareness to the ADDI and its mission of bring the diaspora back home to Africa.