2018 Africa Link Annual Symposium / Solidarity Awards

Africa Link Special Reports

The inaugural Africa Link Annual Symposium was held on 8 September 2018 together with the 5th edition of Africa Link Solidarity Awards. The topics of the symposium were Corruption and Migration blended with a presentation on the importance of Entrepreneurship for the growth of Africa’s economy.

The moderators of the events were Samuel Polley, a communications specialist with a passion for African innovation, and George Ola-Davis a journalist and former diplomat who has travelled the length and breadth of Africa now based in France. George led the audience smoothly through the symposium with a scattering of wit and anecdotes of experience.

Johnson Oduwaiye, Founder and President of Africa Link in his short welcome address explained that Africa Link intends to use the annual symposium to seek collaboration with key state, policy and governance officials, informed and influential citizens in Africa, the Diaspora and global experts in various disciplines to search for solutions to Africa’s thorning issues, and to address African concerns in a “more dynamic manner that will encourage Africans and friends of Africa to join forces for such solutions, including ways and means to eliminate some anomalies that slow down the progress and development of Africa, of which a cankerworm called corruption tops the list.

He suggested that in fighting the hindrances, every African has a role to play, small or big, to fight corruption on the continent. He cited an African (Yoruba) adage to illustrate the role every African could and should be able to play as when communal matter is concerned. “If you don’t have money to contribute to a communal project, you should have encouraging words, and if you don’t have money and encouraging words, you could make yourself available to run an errand for the community.”

He added that where there is a will there is always a way, any willing man and woman, young and old could find a role to play, for an example, in an effort to reduce corruption on the continent. He said a simple act of discouraging people to give and take bribe, or individual determination neither to take nor give a bribe would be a positive contribution towards discouraging corruption.

Mr. Oduwaiye implored governments not to brew corruption by their action or inaction. It is observed that some governments’ efforts to fight corruption “have not been yielding the anticipated results” because the perpetrators of corruption are inside these governments, and among the elite of the society, who are not only being celebrated but are also seen as untouchable.

The migration issue took centre stage with a presentation by Peter Aeberhard, the Coordinators of Swiss Civil Society Platform on Migration and Development (mdplatform) on the activities of the body.

Mr. Aeberhard explained: “mdplatform.ch is a space for information sharing among actors interested in the link between migration and development (M&D).” He drew attention to the contribution of migrants to development, in home and host countries, though they needed guidance, rights and support.

What was the role of mdplatform to realising the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) policy?

MDplatform played a supporting role, informing members on the UN Process, enabling member’s participation and contribution to the Swiss Positioning, sharing positions among members,that it gathered from different sittings of members, and dialogues.

It fostered diversity, acceptance and trust; and gave guidance in narrative, promote and enable Dialogue in narrative, promote and enable dialogue among diaspora, Academia and Government development Agencies, HR and migration Organisations toward the build-up of GCM policy.

Its members being engaged and more competent, allowed them to share ideas and experiences for implementation.

 In addition, it shared findings and contributed to members policies. Development actors were guided to reflect and elaborate on how migration and development are interlinked in their portfolio, as well as to share how to make and learn from projects that build on the potential of migrants. Members also formulate policy recommendation in support of the GCM Implementation and test and enable collaboration with Diaspora.

Mr. Aebernard seized the occasion to invite interested individual and organisations to join the mdplatform. He said the body is coordinated by Caritas Schweiz and HELVETAS, and financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Its membership is currently at over 80. Click here to become a member ; go to the website mdplatform.ch to get newsletter and arguments for GCM. Click here for presentation 

Mr. Abdel Rahmane Diop, Associate Migration Officer in the Office of the Director General at the Headquarters of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Geneva] spoke on The Global Compact on Migration and its implication / expectations / implementation in African Countries, looked at its focus and main objectives, management, benefits and challenges for all stakeholders.

He remarked that the symposium and the theme were timely and critical. He states: “The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration presents us with a truly historic opportunity to fill an important gap and define the global migration policy agenda and landscape for decades to come.” He sees Migration as a national, regional and global issue, and an issue about people made of individual intentions encouraged by global trends.

Mr. Diop explained that protracted conflicts and instability have generated more displacement in Africa than in any other region, with neighbouring African countries generously supporting some of the largest refugee populations in the world. This responsibility should not fall on a region alone. No wonder GCM recognises that managing international migration is a shared responsibility of all countries, not just those countries to which people are migrating.

“The finalisation of the Global Compact last July is a historic and remarkable achievement. Historic because it is the first comprehensive agreement on migration developed through inter-governmental negotiations in the United Nations, and remarkably that this was achieved at a time when the narrative around migration is so politically charged.”

He further explains that GCM “presents an opportunity to improve the governance on international migration and to address the benefits and challenges associated with today’s migration. It can also can be a resource in finding the right balance between the rights of individuals and the sovereignty of states.”

In a response to a question, he answered that GCM deals specifically with the regular migration, though there are instances where irregular migrants benefit from such policies that address human rights and when the irregular migrants are granted resident permit. Click here for full Speech

Ambassador Osman Abufatima Mohammed, Sudan’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Offices at Geneva also spoke on migration. His theme was Durable solution to the emerging challenges of regional migration and its effects on food security, land and water resources from a global perspective.

To begin with he reminded the participants that “migration as a permanent reality of the world, has been emphasised as a threat or a challenge, but in many cases was the cause behind the progress of human civilisation”. He continued that, historically, Sudan has received many migrants and refugees and is committed to cooperate with all stakeholders and international community to continue to meet its obligations and to share experience on the challenges and opportunities of migration and displacement.

He also disappointedly pointed out that despite Sudan’s endeavours, “it is crippled by many factors including its economic situation affected by unilateral sanctions imposed by the US, and the secession of South Sudan and its ramifications. Click here for full Speech.

The two people who had accepted to speak on Corruption,‘Why corruption is not necessary in Africa’ declined at the 11th hour as a result an impromptu panel had to be was constituted. It was made up of Alfred Spinnler, former director of Roche Nigeria and Vice President Swiss Cham Africa, Celeste Ugochukwu, a legal counsellor and Executive Director African Foundation for Migration and Development (AFMD), and Basilo Malele former Member of Mozambican National Human Right League, National Youth Council and foundation member of Mozambican Youth Parliamentarian.

The panellists gave their own anecdotes and stories regarding the issue of corruption in Africa, saying in spite of critical comment about it within the continent, it is still possible to do business successfully without engaging in corrupt practices. It was also suggested that “when workers’ salaries are not paid for months, and these workers have families to feed and take care of” it becomes imperative to succumb to temptation of indulging in any act of corruption.” When politicians could not convince electorates to vote for them based on their manifestoes apart from by buying votes, when leaders are there to line up their own and their families’ pockets at the expense of the public, what then would stop security and customs officials from accepting and demanding bribes, the panellists asked.

It is obvious how wealthy the continent is, but the situation goes according to an African parlance. It all boils down to “monkeys dey work baboon dey chop am”, which literarily means the people are working but the leaders are enjoying the fruits of people’s labour.

The panellists also pointed at the Western world and how they are encouraging and abetting corruption directly and indirectly. They discourage money laundering in words but not in action. For example, when it comes to the repatriation of looted money they introduce bureaucracy and conditionality. When the Western countries want to recover the money their citizens are involved in illegally from other western countries they receive assistance from each other, but it is always a different story when it concerns African countries. They receive such assistance from Africa but never reciprocate in similar term.

To curb corruption in Africa, leaders should make the welfare of the people paramount in their governance. Those who money after signing contracts but do not perform the job to the correct standard should be punished severely as deterrents to others. They were quick to add that the government should not award a contract if there is no money to back it up. It should be realised that failure to pay contractors for work completed, and workers’ salaries when due is encouraging corruption.

Fighting corruption in Africa requires the contributions of every citizen, and other countries, especially the Western countries.

Bert Evers, CEO of Evers Xcellence, mentor for Cherie Blair Foundation (UK), Tony Elumelu Foundation (Nigeria) Tshipa Youth Ambassadors SA, member of the Advisory Bright Future Cornerstone (Rwanda) and Albanian Skills (Albania). He emphasised the need to embark on entrepreneurship to grow Africa’s economy and counter the population growth on the continent.

The continent has to start to prepare for the 800 million Africans that will join the job market in the coming years, to avoid a massive unemployment and associate crisis, “entrepreneurism is the answer.”

It is time for entrepreneurship culture, while encouraging investment in the sector, adding that more than 90% of the future entrepreneurs in Africa need support!

He cited Tony Elumelu Foundation’s (TEF) long-term investment in empowering African entrepreneurs as an exemplary that positions Africa’s private sector, and most importantly entrepreneurs, as the catalyst for the social and economic development of the continent.

Between 2015-2017 the foundation established 426 entrepreneurs, and 15 percent of them created 3,728 jobs and generated $25.8 million. This shows the viability of entrepreneurship.

He listed Top 5 Entrepreneurship programs in Africa, among them are:

AKILAH INSTITUTE founded by Elizabeth Dearborn and her husband Dave to train young African women with the goal of equipping them with market relevant skills that enable them to find rewarding jobs after graduation.

ASHESI UNIVERSITY: It “aims to educate a new generation of ethical, entrepreneurial leaders in Africa”, with a strong emphasis on cultivating critical thinking and leadership skills among its students. The university, located in Ghana, was founded by Dr. Patrick Awuah. Dr. Awuah quited Microsoft to start the institution, which has been doing exceptionally well.

AFRICAN LEADERSHIP ACADEMY: With the goal of building the next generation of African leaders, the African Leadership Academy (ALA), has been educating students since 2008. Its training curriculum couples standard secondary school classes with a number of entrepreneurship courses and activities. Its founder, Fred Swaniker has now founded the African Leadership University with the goal of continuing ALA’s mission. The school is located in the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa.

BRANSON Center of Entrepreneurship: Founded in 2005 in South Africa by Richard Branson, who is arguably the foremost entrepreneur of our time, this institute supports budding entrepreneurs and empowers them to achieve their dreams.  It provides the resources and inspiration that these entrepreneurs need so as to scale their ventures and create more jobs. Due to its success, Richard Branson started a similar centre in Jamaica

MEST: Founded in 2008, this Ghanaian based institute provides aspiring African entrepreneurs with a fully sponsored twelve month-long intensive program aimed at equipping them with the skills to take their ventures to the next level. Subjects include computer programming, software development, product management, finance, marketing, sales and leadership training. Click here for Presentation.

Dr. Yima Sen teaches in the Faculty of Management and Social Sciences, Baze University, Abuja, Nigeria and is Director-General of the Northern Elders’ Forum in Nigeria.

He could not come but sent his note titled: Herders And Farmers’ Conflicts: The Emerging Challenges That Threaten Investment, Food Security And Agricultural Sustainability In Africa.  

Addressing the gathering, he said while the genesis of herder/farmer conflicts in Africa could not be ascertained, the factors are many and could be political, ecological, economic, racial, ethnic, religious, criminal, imperial or terrorist. To make the controversies surrounding the conflicts clearer and understandable, he chose a Nigerian case study in reviewing the factors.

Political: In political arena and hypothetically, the incumbent President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani, is complicit in a move aimed at enhancing the political leverage of the “Fulanis of the world” in Nigeria.

Ecological: The global warming and desertification in Africa have pushed herders further south to occupy the lush vegetation of the green belt of central Nigeria’s middle belt.

Livestock-rearing: The livestock-rearing economy is demanding some land-based stabilisation, which makes the fertile savannah land of Nigeria’s central zone particularly attractive.

Racial: The racial hypothesis that a Fulani racial group is looking for expansion in a nihilist or genocidal project against some indigenous African racial groups.

Ethnic: The ethnic explanation akin to the racial which is the expansion of the Fulani ethnic group across West Africa into Nigeria initially aided by its hybridisation into a Hausa-Fulani mega group to now expand into other ethnic communities in Nigeria.

Religious: The religious suggestion that the Sokoto Islamic Jihad of 1804 in Nigeria is being rekindled and continued.

Criminal: The criminal is that livestock theft or what is termed cattle rustling by host communities to herders attracts defensive reprisals.

Imperial: The imperial is that the same Sokoto Caliphate is on a course of imperial expansion.

Terrorist: The terrorist explanation is that armed Africans hitherto in the service of late Libyan leader, Muammar Ghaddafi have been dispersed southwards from North Africa and they are available for use as mercenaries or terrorists or are just rampaging in terrorist bands.

The reality, however is that the conflicts have existed for a long time but have intensified in the last decade. What can be deduced from these are the concerns and hypotheses that the government of Nigeria needs to show more seriousness about ending these conflicts without delay as the aftermath could bring a great disaster and losses to the country.  Click here for Speech.

The ceremony of 5th edition of Africa Link Solidarity Awards followed immediately after the symposium. And the presentations of the Awards were made by Mr. Baba Madugu, the Ambassador of Nigeria to Switzerland and Ambassador Osman Abufatima Mohammed, Deputy Permanent Representative of Sudan to the United Nations Geneva.