The global African Diaspora community may be able to visit Senegal without requiring a visa under new proposals unveiled by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade. The announcement was made at the recent International Colloquium in Accra, Ghana, held to honour the legacy of the country’s first President Kwame Nkrumah.
The announcement is significant as it is the first time any African head of state has offered “Visa Free Status” to members of the African Diaspora. It follows discussions at the Colloquium with Her Excellency, Ambassador Dr Erieka Bennett, Founder and Head of Mission of the Diaspora African Forum (DAF), which is based in Accra. The DAF holds diplomatic status granted by Ghana and is the first diplomatic mission in the world dedicated to the African Diaspora.
“The president asked me to lead a Diaspora delegation to Senegal to work out the modalities for the new mission,” said Dr Bennett. "This is an important, transformational moment in the history of Africa and especially for the political and economic evolution of African and African Diaspora affairs.”
The Jamaican diplomat Ambassador Dudley Thompson, representing the African Diaspora community at the International Colloquium, also applauded Senegalese President Wade’s initiative to better integrate the Diaspora in African affairs. “This decision represents a giant step in helping to unite Africa and the Diaspora, and demonstrates in a most meaningful way the visionary leadership of President Wade and importance of the African Diaspora to 21st century Africa," he said.
President Wade also announced that the Republic of Senegal would create a Chair on Pan Africanism at Dakar’s Cheikh Anta Diop University, and further proposed that a permanent Pan African Secretariat be established in the capital city.
There is increasing recognition that the African Diaspora has a key role to play in the development of the continent, be it through investment in business, involvement in civil society or as a bridge between the peoples of Africa and Europe. The DAF was established as a means by which the African diaspora could engage and help make the concepts behind the Joint Africa – EU Strategic Partnership a reality. The DAF also wants to see the diaspora involved in pan-African activities on European soil, and to be seen by African leaders as an effective point of contact abroad.
“The diaspora could and should be a serious lobby for various funding opportunities and encouraging serious partnerships with EU countries,” says Bennett. “One thing we do is to strongly encourage African leaders, when they go to meetings in Europe, to meet the African diaspora and to make them feel a part of Africa and let them know how important their involvement is.”