The Diaspora Academic Network for Africa (DIANA ry) was officially launched on Thursday, 25th November 2021, in Finland. The virtual event attracted participation from the Commissioner for HRST of the African Union Commission, H.E. Prof. Sarah Anyang Agbor ( keynote speaker), Representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland, Mr Martti Eirola, Representative of the European Union Commissioner for Partnership, Senior Cabinet Expert, Lora Borissova, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Addis Ababa, the Association of African Universities, Africa Development Futures Group, United States of America, Members of the African and European higher education communities, Representatives from Finnish Universities, the Management of the Diaspora Academic Network for Africa, DIANA ry, representatives of International Organizations, Civil Society and the Private Sector.
In her keynote address, H.E. Prof. Sarah Anyang Agbor, pledged the support of the African Union to DIANA ry, indicating the need for a Memorandum of Understanding between the AUC and the organisation. She further encouraged the Management of DIANA ry to engage with other stakeholders, especially the Association of African universities, on areas of synergies. She noted that;
“It was a pleasure when I received this invitation to speak at the launch of the Diaspora Academic Network for Africa (DIANA ry), first headquartered in Finland, with Branch Offices in Germany and the United States of America. As you may know, the African Union does not minimise any energy to support initiatives that mobilise the diaspora towards Africa. The diaspora often termed as Africa’s sixth region. DIANA ry’s mission to mobilise the expertise of Africans in the diaspora to fill teaching and research gaps in Africa. On behalf of H.E. Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, the re-elected Chairperson of the African Union Commission, I am therefore honoured to welcome you all to this very auspicious occasion of the launch of the Diaspora Academic Network for Africa under the theme “Globally Resident but Locally Engaged: Diaspora Knowledge Transfer in the Digital Revolution.”
Addressing the audience, the President of DIANA ry, Dr Pascla Doh indicated that, the strength of DIANA ry is the national focal persons who are already very active. He added that education is the bridge to mitigate mistrust. Martti Eriola encouragess DIANA ry to implement the Finish government’s Africa strategy, which aligns with DIANA ry’s objectives. Lora Barissova of the European Union stressed the need to engage with the Africa-EU summit slated for 17-18 February 2022. She added that there had been a need to review the E.U. strategy for Africa emphasising partnership for green transition energy, sustainable growth, migration and mobility, technology and digitalisation and the need to focus on adapting education to our changing world as we develop economic strategies.
Professor Nkem Nkhumba of the Michigan State University added that, in working with African countries, it is better for DIANA to work with regional networks and universities based in Africa directly. He said diaspora working on the continent have a challenge of minimal resources to work locally. Dr Felix Donkor, on his part, said education is key for development, and cooperation is necessary for this to happen. He said the low penetration of education in Africa makes it even more capital to invest in this area, adding that a well-educated human resource base in Africa is necessary, and this can be done by transfer of knowledge and technology as is the objective of DIANA ry.
Professor Amany Elsharif of Egypt and the North American office of the Association of African Universities indicated that, despite the shortage of knowledge and technology, Africa is rich with resources, and the diaspora should tap into that. She called on the diaspora to ensure the transfer of knowledge and technology to like-minded African youth. Addressing the gathering, Dr Cosmas Lambini indicated that DIANA ry intends to set up decentralised operations in order to reach the grassroots easily. He added that about 20 national focal persons are already in African countries - the national focal persons are the core of the operations of DIANA ry.
Mr Jean Paul Adam of UNECA added that the value of DIANA ry would be to tap into the knowledge in and out of Africa to embrace innovation, new technologies, and that Africa is lagging in the SDGs, and education has a key role to play. He said, UNECA looks forward to working with DIANA ry to provide expertise from the diaspora. Dr Fred Awaah reminded the audience of the historic role of the the African diaspora, tracing the political libration of the African continent to the formation fo the West African Studetns Union in the UK in 1925, which subsequently produced liberation leaders like Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.Other speakers at the launch were Apioy Okwiri, Professor Levi, Dr Anke, Eveline Banemb, Prof. Jephias Gwamuri, Terence Young, Dr Bilola Theresa, Emma Tamankang, Mr Evans Andrew, Declan Kirran, and Prof. Seppo Holt. The event was ably coordinated and moderated by Dr Elvis Nshom and Dr Christianah Dare.