June 29, 2020

African Consuls General hold dialogue with Diaspora leaders, U.S. officials

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A dialogue between African Consuls General in the United States and diaspora leaders on issues of common interest was held alongside some elected public officers of the host coutry through Zoom.

The engagement was first of its kind and it came four months after the formation of the African Consuls General (ACG) forum in February.

No fewer than 150 people, including African Union Permanent Observer to the United Nations, Amb. Fatima Mohammed, and New York State senator, Mr Robert Jackson, participated in the conversation.

For over two hours, the participants addressed issues such as racism, discrimination, African unity, education, empowerment, trade, health, and culture and tourism as unifying tools.

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In his opening remarks, pioneer Chairman of the ACG, Mr Benaoyagha Okoyen, emphasised the need for unity, cooperation and collaboration among Africans in the Diaspora.

Okoyen, who is the Consul General of Nigeria in New York, said it was important for Africans in the U.S. to be conscious of their roots.

He noted that by working together they would be able to mobilise their enormous resources towards the development of their respective countries and the continent in general.

“This informed the decision of the ACGs to come together as a force to work in harmony, and engage the host authorities to achieve our purpose”, he said.

In a goodwill message, Mohammed said the meeting was timely coming at a time that the black community in the U.S. was rising against the “scourge of racism, discrimination and intolerance”.

The AU permanent representative to the UN said that the role of the African Diaspora in the struggle for a just society could not be overemphasised.

We as a people with our different colours, shapes and sizes spread all over the world in different sectors have a responsibility for the future of our people, no matter where we are based.

“So, my message for you today is to encourage you to collectively strive towards building nations worldwide.

“Let us build nations that strive towards eliminating discrimination; nations that see the strength in diversity, nations that help our citizens to gain full and equal participation in global development.

“We have to build nations that are able to celebrate our humanity and commit to wiping out discrimination and fear, while promoting equality and empowerment”, she said.

In separate remarks, Sen. Jackson and the President of Manhattan Borough, Ms Gale Brewer, condemned the renewed wave of racial discrimination in the U.S.

Jackson highlighted efforts by the New York senate to address the problem.

The lawmaker, who is a regular face in events organised by African Diaspora community, pledged his continued support to them.

Brewer thanked the African community for their leadership, support to each other and cooperation with host authorities, particularly in the fight against COVID-19.

“Sometimes you are too nice people, and it pains me that our agencies are not able to support you,” she said with a promise to change the situation.

In separate contributions, the African diaspora leaders also lauded the ACGs for the dialogue, which they suggested should be held regularly.

Mr Lucien Kouassi, who is the President of the Ivorian Association, decried the wide education gap between the white and black communities.

Kouassi appealed to the U.S. officials to facilitate the establishment of vocational schools in the black community.

He also urged the ACGs to “create a pipeline of skills that can connect the diaspora to areas of need in the motherland”.

For his part, a Nigerian diasporan leader, Mr Obed Monago, also lamented “lack of unity” between Africans in the U.S. and black Americans.

Monago, who is the Chairman, Board of Trustees, Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation, Americas, noted that  the “huge gap” was a source of regular conflicts between both sides.

He appealed to the Consuls General to use their influence to build bridges of mutual understanding and unity between them.

The Consuls General of South Africa, Ghana, Algeria, Morocco, Cote D’Ivoire, Liberia, Senegal, Kenya, among others, also took part in the meeting.