On August 24th and 25th,2017 African alumni of Harvard College convened in Ghana for the first ever Harvard Africa Alumni Action Forum. The forum, which had over 200 attendees, called on participants to leverage the many opportunities available on the Continent to address the challenges faced by various sectors that hinder rapid socio-economic development.
The two-day forum included high level keynote speakers – His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana, and Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia who both inspired the audience with history on Africa’s development and how each person can play a role in the Continent’s reform. The President of Ghana urged participants to push for making African enterprises more viable on the global market, by for instance in agriculture, moving beyond planting to processing and marketing. As Honorary Guest Speaker and a distinguished Harvard Alumna, President Johnson Sirleaf stated “As alumni, the challenge is to create similar Harvards here in Africa to empower the African Continent.”
Ms. Kosi Yankey, convenor of the conference, a Harvard Alum and Executive Director of the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI), walked the audience through re-imagining an Africa that was developed and at the center of the world stage. She expressed that this Africa would be possible if participants strived to change the story of the Continent politically, socially and economically, leveraging innovations such as technology and incubation. A number of invigorating panel discussions were held on healthcare, governance, technology, among others.
Ahaspora was honored to present on the Diaspora panel, represented by its founder Christabel Dadzie. The panel on the Diaspora focused on the importance of the diaspora to Africa’s development. The discussions included identifying the barriers to entry, and finding concrete ways for the diaspora to contribute to the Continent’s development.
The panelists provided real life experiences about what it means to move back to the Continent from the Diaspora. For instance, discussions centered around low remuneration for most jobs which makes moving tough… Panelists acknowledged that some Africans moving home do look down on those who have never left, and that it is important that they are open minded and understand that their contexts are different, but not necessarily better. The diaspora tends to come in as a social class and are sometimes perceived as being better than those who have stayed which is problematic. While they play an important role in development, there shouldn’t be unrealistic expectations for their contributions. As such, the diaspora should be open minded to the views and the story of everyone.
In terms of staying engaged with the Continent, Christabel sighted mentoring and sharing information about professional and personal challenges and successes are ways to stay engaged and also encourage others to come back to the Continent. While mentoring and imparting knowledge to improve soft skills that will be essential to navigating a new system, the diaspora can also make a difference by bringing down cash to support social causes, which ultimately improve development, and comparatively, very little money makes a very big difference in Africa.
For more information about the forum, visit www.harvardafricaalumni.com
Author :: Christabel Steel-Dadzie