Capitalizing African Identity and tapping the African Diaspora for Afsol

By Eyob Asfaw Gemechu*
The principle of ‘African-centered Solutions’ is a search for a better framework which can encompass practical positive advantages. That is to mean, the African identity along with its stakeholders, champions and sympathizers shall not be marginalized from solutions; especially the supposed primary actors such as member states of the African Union. Indeed, it is so inspiring and encouraging to have the first and the second Afsol Workshops (26 – 27 September 2014 and 6-7 March 2015) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, underscoring the identity of the ‘African’. When we talk about being African, would that description be based on our history, geography and identity? ‘Who is an African?’ I advocate for widening the concept of the ‘African’ from a mere geographic inhabitant to add flexibly trans-national African identity and the African Diaspora. The very characteristic of the African identity is found in continents other than the place called ‘Africa’. This was due to the trans-continental slave trade and the post-colonial migration of Africans. Ever since decolonization, globally and continentally the African identity has been inter-twinned with Pan-Africansim.
The earlier versions of pan Africanism, reverberated by Macus Garvey and Du Bois, transcend the ‘geographic Africa’. The historical success of such pan-African movement that transcended the geographic Africa, worked so well, to the extent that it should be recognized as exemplary for any forthcoming African-centered agenda. Thus, the identity was not mere sympathy on biological and racial grounds, rather on sharing the multifaceted sufferings of colonialism and transatlantic slavery. Similarly, much of off-Africa countries with African descendants’ are the current ‘Global south’. The African Diaspora recently dispersed across the globe and the transnational African identity has to be tapped for potential contribution for the new venture for ‘Afsol’.
Arguably enough, a very tight conceptual limitation of African-centered Solutions, to and by, African inhabitants and African citizenry only may end up devoid of its potential of extension to people of African descendant and the diaspora. Once again, Africans need to understand that capitalizing on people with African ancestry whose aspirations is to identify themselves with the African inhabitants, is in every way advantageous. The Afro-Canadian Anthropologist, Kamari M. Clarke (2006), argued that there is an increasing demand for African membership, as it is increasingly deterritorialized.
Thus, AU, starting from 2003, unleashed several conventions and remarkable achievements to engage the African Diasporas in the continental Affairs (ISS today, 30 May 2012). With the portrayal of the African Diaspora as the sixth region of Africa, where the continental union was functionally live also through its regional blocks in a manner different than other continental unions. To illustrate some novel experiences of AU’s engagement with African Diaspora is the establishment of ‘Western Hemisphere Diaspora Network (WHADN) in Washington DC in December 2002, with an interactive interface with the AU Commission, including the core activities of the commission. To the best virtue of its peculiarity, the Network had come up with the mission ‘to encourage and facilitate the utilization of the collective talents and resources of the African Diaspora in the Americas and Caribbean to advance the collective interests of Africans on the continent and throughout the Diaspora. Such initiatives at the AU shall result in meaningful actions, along the possible spectrum of the traditional remittance contribution to the overall quests of the continental union.
A demonstration of the Diasporas engagement can be illustrated with their involvement in current affairs, such as Ebola or Boko Haram, in line with AU’s ‘call for collaboration’ on those crisis with other international actors. The efforts of individual countries to engage their respective Diaspora dispersed across the globe & having little interaction with their motherland, has to be attended to by AU. Several African countries tried the scheme of engaging diasporas, albeit their current citizenship. Despite the right of individual countries to operate under their own citizenship policies, AU can craft a model African Citizenship Policy, with ‘multi layered African citizenship’. This Scheme is somehow in line with the repeatedly contested ‘African Union Government’ and can be a setting ground for creating an enabling environment for a better ‘inclusive African-centered solutions’.

A model of importing similar deterritorialized alliances that had an enduring success is not entirely peculiar for Africa, pan Arabism is an example whose members are drawn from more than one continent. The historic reasons of capitalizing on earlier dispersed African Descendants in Americas, pacific islands and recent African Diasporas is so helpful for ‘African-centered solutions’. Exerting the right conceptual balance to the proposed inclusion of African identity is not without its challenges. Perhaps the benefits outweigh these potential challenges.

Reference
 Kamari Maxine Clarke (2006) Mapping Transnationality: Roots Tourism and the Institutionalization of Ethnic Heritage IN Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness. Edited by M. Kamari Clarke and Deborah Thomas. Pp. 133-153. Durham, NC: Duke University Press

*Eyob Asfaw Gemechu (eyob.asfaw@aau.edu.et )is a lecturer, at Addis Ababa University, also serving as community services expertise at the office of Vice President for Research & Technology Transfer of the University. He earned his MA in Federal Studies in 2012 and a BA degree in Sociology and Social Anthropology in 2008, from Addis Ababa University. His area of interest includes managing diversity, cultural diversity and identity.
All views expressed in the AfSol blog are solely the views of the authors and do not in any represent the views of the IPSS or APSP. For more information on AfSol Blog, please contact research@ipss-addis.org

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