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Diaspora News | Feb 3, 2005

Africans advised to tap resources of the Diaspora

GNA

Accra, Feb. 3, GNA - An immigration expert attending the second World Summit on Information Society's (WSIS) Africa conference in Accra on Thursday said Africa must strategise to tap the rich resources of its citizens living abroad for the region's socio-economic development.

Mr Charles Kwenin of the International Organisation for Migration said about three million Africans leave annually for the European Union and North American countries out of which over 100,000 are estimated to be professionals.

It is also estimated that about 40,000 PhD holding Africans leave their countries of origin to work in the host countries they migrate to and Mr Kwenin believes such people could make enormous contributions to the socio-economic development of their individual countries via Information, Communication and Technology (ICT).

The over 1,000 participants attending the conference which opened on Friday are trying to build consensus on issues such as ICT in education, health, language and civil society participation in the development of the sector in the region.

The outcome of the conference would be presented at the next world summit on ICT scheduled for Tunisia in November this year. Africa is determined to let its voice heard and also to solicit for support from development partners to build its ICT structures.

The Accra conference is on the theme: "Access: Africa's Key to an Inclusive Information Society".

The topic for discussion was "ICTs for Socio-economic development".

Mr Kwenin said scientists now conducted research through the Internet, while others engaged in the transfer of knowledge in programmes such as distance learning.

He said while African countries could make efforts to link up with its citizens who formed part of the Diaspora to benefit from such programmes, they could also solicit their interest and engage their services to establish trade contacts and build new markets for local products.

Already, Africans in the Diaspora formed the minority population in their host countries and because they felt discriminated against, they mostly become small-scale entrepreneurs.

Mr Kwenin said if such people were enticed to invest in their countries of origin, it would trigger transfer of technology and skills since Africans in the Diaspora normally upgraded their skills whilst abroad.

He said currently, most African countries, including Ghana were legalising money transfer or remittances through ICT-based systems. Mr Kwenin observed that the practice had resulted in the transfer of financial technology and said Africa realised an average of about a 100 billion dollars annually.

Senegal alone received 270 million dollars from legalised money transfer in 2002.

A substantial amount of money passed through informal channels, he said, but added that more Africans in the Diaspora were turning to the ICT-based money transfer system because it was cost effective and reliable in terms of safety.

Other new technology-based money transfer facilities include e-banking and telephone banking and Africa is expected to invest in its socio-economic development in the areas of health and education through these inventions.

Mr. Kwenin urged heads of African states to legalise the involvement of the Diaspora in socio-economic development and recognise the efforts that Ghana had made so far in adopting dual citizenship. Such legalised systems, he said, could enable Africans who had travelled to take part in the socio-economic development of their countries without having to return home.

In another development, Mr Henry Chasia, an official from the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), said the African lead initiative recognised the importance of ICT in the quest to achieve socio-economic development on the continent.

He said leaders had developed a new 10-year educational programme as part of NEPAD's priority areas, which included market access and diseases outbreaks.

According to Mr Chasia, NEPAD identified ICT as a priority area, not because it was a problem but because it had the potential through the transfer of technology to affect national lives.

The main objectives of the programme dubbed NEPAD in schools is to develop skills among the populace beginning with the primary and secondary schools.

The programme is intended to provide skills to the young people and in turn use them to improve areas such as education, health and teaching as teachers would have to prepare lessons and deliver them through ICT facilities.

It also requires African schools to have curricula that relates to ICT.

Mr. Chasia said there was the need to establish an effective governance structure for the programme and to start with, NEPAD would begin with the 20 countries that had signed the MOU to subject themselves to the African Peer Review mechanism.

The implementers of NEPAD would adopt a systematic approach to translate the three-phase programme into reality.

The first phase would involve 20 countries, which would implement the programme in six schools in each country on a pilot basis. The second and third would involve between 15 to 20 schools.

Each school would be equipped with ICT facilities and where there is no electricity, implementers would generate power to ensure the success of the programme.

Mr Chasia said Africa was faced with a significant task of great magnitude and therefore intended to work with corporate partners to see to the installations and operations for the first year after which the project would roll over to other countries.

The NEPAD regional secretariat had identified 90 schools for the project and each company in the corporate entity would work on nine schools with the individual countries and the secretariat. NEPAD would also assist the participating countries by raising funds across the world with the hope that Africa would be able to spread the required skills among its critical masses.

Mr Chasia noted that about 60 per cent of Africa's people were below 80 years and that about half of the population would have gone through the skills transfer programme at the end of the exercise. President John Agyekum Kufuor officially opened the one-week conference on Wednesday at a meeting attended by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannochi of Tunisia.

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