Through my experience dealing with diasporas across the globe, I have learned something very shocking about Africa and America that I would like to share with you today. I noticed that some diaspora groups and countries are very connected and as tightly knit as a sweater. When I realized that these groups were successful in helping their diaspora and home country, I thought to myself: why isn’t this the case for Africa? For many years, I used to think that the African leaders, politicians, and intellectuals were the main cause of the African problem. After being recently involved in several diaspora initiatives, I realized that what causes the African leaders to cling to power and ignore their own intellectuals who, in the end, are leaving Africa to go abroad, is also causing the African Diaspora to fight among each other, and wanting to raise themselves above each other in a way that most of the African diaspora initiatives are not in sync. The Africans tend to always put themselves first, and in the process, they discourage and put down anyone who may dare to do something similar. While other nations are fighting the ideologies that should free Africa, the Africans themselves keep creating and worsening divisions they have been subjected to by colonial powers. African efforts lack coordination and cooperation at many levels. The African Diaspora and African leaders are not ready to engage with one another in a realistic way that can overcome 21st century global mindsets and customs that still try to hold back the Black community, despite having a Black President at the White House.
The mentality that caused the Europeans to go to Africa to divide it, to catch our grandfathers and force them into slavery, is sadly still within many of our own African leaders and the African Diaspora. That evil spirit is causing many Africans to sabotage one another, and to refuse to collaborate with or help each other. That is why Africa is unable to unite and use its rich lands and resources to develop. I found it fascinating that some Africans born in Africa do not even consider African Americans (descendants of former slaves) to be a part of the African diaspora. Sometimes, I am shocked that while talking about race in America, there is a difference between African, Black, African American, Afrodescendant, and Negro. Yet, they are the same people who are struggling to free their brothers and sisters from some historical strongholds.
During the building of the global diaspora database, I engaged with several diaspora associations across the globe. I noticed that there are many African diaspora clubs. The Africans gather themselves in groups that discuss diverse forms of doctrines without truly thinking about how to help others even their own people. In those diaspora groups or networks, some Africans surround themselves with people who can help them to find a piece of the pie and eat it together. After being involved in decision making at the highest level, I found it amazing that in America, many of the African Diaspora’s initiatives by Africans from Africa are not welcomed by some leaders in the African American communities, and vice versa. The Africans need to learn to work more cooperatively and to stop to be victims of their past historical wounds.
The African Diasporas are so dispersed and divided that IF they cannot learn HOW to better work with one another in the midst of their divergences and geographical constraints, they can never sustainably improve their situation. The most developed countries do NOT like each other, BUT they know how to meet in their clubs of G7, G10, G20, Gxyz, etc. to work together and push their agenda forward. While the African Nations are trying hard to be included in these clubs, they have refused for more than 50 years to unite themselves to form a realistic African Union. Similarly, some African leaders tend to reject the potential of their diaspora intellectuals in order to focus on their own selfish agendas that help them acquire money; create projects and/or get consulting fees, or keep their power until they die on their throne before their children take over by picking up the leadership heritage. Though certain African Leaders cite the western countries as the root of their poverty, they crush their own people with policies, sometimes in the name of democracy that some people think is sufficient to develop Africa!
Likewise, the African diasporas (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_diaspora) “ignore” one another just as some developed countries technically overlook Africa’s best interests. For instance, Benin Republic (West Africa) is among the smallest countries in the world. There are more than 150 political parties in Benin and there are several diaspora associations from Benin in America; however, they are NOT working together. Everybody wants to be the Boss and at the same time some western powers have put Africa in a big box that it is struggling to escape. This backward mentality is everywhere amongst most African nations and diasporas. As if this mentality is not enough, the African leaders are not listening to the intellectuals they have at their own universities. Indeed, they have chased away many professionals and imprisoned those they do not like. Africa claims that it wants to reverse the brain drain; however, it forgets that the migration of these brains is feeding the economy and the technology of western countries that Africa asks to fund the African projects where money is spoiled and wasted as if it was the sand of the seashore. Are the Africans implying that the World Bank was right when it argued for many years that Africa does not need University Intellectuals? The African Leaders need to understand that listening to their own intellectuals and investing in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics… must be the first priority in their budget. Otherwise, we are just programming and prolonging poverty in Africa, although some people use statistics to show that Africa is prospering. Money-oriented conferences organized on behalf of Africa will not improve the African situation. Indeed, if we cannot change the mentality of the African Leaders, we cannot win this battle.
Furthermore, we need to be more honest with Africa and with one another. For instance, members of the African Diasporas are very smart, but NOT very rich. Yet, when they go to Africa, they behave as if they are billionaires abroad. This behavior ignites excitement and adventure in the minds of talented Africans, who then leave Africa only to realize that life abroad is not always easy, nor the heaven that some people describe. We need to start being honest with our people in Africa. When we want to talk about African Diaspora Engagement, let’s not think too much about MONEY, and let’s refrain from turning to BIG financial institutions for funding. Money has never been Africa’s problem and it will never be the solution. If the African Diaspora can help one another without spreading abroad their backward mentality-which is not different from the mindset of the nations that try to oppress them, I believe we can better forge strong coalitions that can help free Africa, the poor, the needy, and the afflicted from being controlled by the power of other nations who are trying to develop themselves as well.
Some people may wonder why I am speaking as if I hate Africa. The fact of the matter is that I love Africa very much and I still have brothers and sisters on the Black continent who cannot even comprehend the reality of life abroad even if I risk my life to tell them the truth. I am privileged to have tasted life in Africa before migrating to the USA, where I got my PhD in Plant, Insect and Microbial Sciences. I have been working and publishing books and articles about Africa for more than 15 years. It is my love for Africa and the global diaspora that caused me to create the International Diaspora Engagement Platform ( http://bit.ly/1fRzYmX ). Today, I am pleased to inform you that the platform is growing quickly and is being used in many countries.
May God bless Africa and its Diasporas.
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by Roland Holou