A National African Diaspora Discussion Forum, organised by Zephrynus Ikeh of Black History Month Ireland and the Africa-Irish Development Initiative, took place at the EU headquarters in Dublin 2 on Wednesday 12 July 2015.
Speakers, compered by Jean-Pierre Eyanga Ekumeloko, included Chairman of Diaspora Matters Kingsley Aikins, a representative of Nigerian Ambassador Her Excellency Doctor Bolere Elizabeth Ketebu, and Comms Executive for Exsite Communications, Edna Lyatuu Hogan.
Organiser Zeph Ikeh opened the discussion with a speech about engaging with Africa through its diasporas, using influential networks that can harness Africa’s burgeoning and multifaceted environments. Awareness among the governments and peoples in Africa of the potential benefits of using the knowledge, acumen and services of the African diaspora was growing, he said.
Mr Aikins spoke about the Hebraic etymology of the word diaspora, and the meaning and significance of the word to the Irish overseas and at home. He went on to discuss India’s diaspora, which has historically had no love of the mother country, and how India’s current leadership now listen to the criticisms about bureaucracy and corruption that those who live or were born abroad have conveyed.
Former Labour MEP Emer Costello spoke briefly about “a lot of the women’s organisations are the ones that focus on what African women are doing to empower African women here in Ireland and to empower African women in Africa.” She spoke of the nineteenth-century Coffin Ships, which were filled with Irish people often forced to travel to the New World out of economic necessity. Others fled Ireland throughout history due to war and conflict.
“Many of Ireland’s first migrants coming into Ireland – some of them were escaping a kind of conflict, some of them escaping what was called ‘marauding Vikings’. Some people say that the Vikings had a little bit of a bad press. It would be fair to say that when the Vikings came to Ireland they certainly weren’t welcomed with open arms! But it was soon appreciated that they brought a lot of creativity and innovation, and certainly a lot of what we see in terms of the archaeological remains around the city come from our Viking past or our Viking tradition, and there’s no doubt that the Vikings integrated well into Irish society. Indeed, their Normans cousins who came a little later were deemed to be more Irish than the Irish themselves”.
Diasporas, Ms Costello said, are mutually beneficial to the host country and the country of origin. They “spread ideas and they promote innovation. We shouldn’t be talking about emigration or migration and we shouldn’t be preventing it either. We should be celebrating the fact that it is allowing this spread of information.”
Edna Lyatuu-Hogan gave both personal and broader statistical insights about her Tanzanian homeland and the African diaspora. She spoke of direct investment in African development.
“African migrants’ contribution to Africa recently is estimated to be about US$40 billion. But strangely enough, the savings for African migrants across the globe is estimated to be about US$43 billion but the money is not invested in Africa. This is what we’re trying to encourage the African diaspora[…]to do[…]business.
“People have a view of Africa that maybe the continent is not ready, that it’s not mature enough,” Ms Lyatuu-Hogan said. “But I had a meeting with my [Tanzanian] ambassador in London, with the Prime Minister in Tanzania, and they told me to spread the word: Tanzania is ready for investment. We need investors in oil and gas, we need investors in agri-business, ICT and tourism, and so many other sectors.”
The discussion ended with an insightful and interesting Q&A session.