According to the African Union, the African Diaspora consists of people of African origin living outside of the continent, irrespective of citizenship and nationality and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and building of the African Union. The African Union estimates that the African Diaspora represents approximately 39.2 million people in North America (United States and Canada), 112.6 million people in South America (primarily Brazil, Columbia and Venezuela), 13.5 million people in the Caribbean Islands, and about 3.5 million people in Europe.
The African Diaspora in the United States is comprised of six distinct groups. The bulk are Africans whose ancestors came to the United States in the belly of slave ships in the 1600s. There are also Africans who migrated to the U.S. in search of education and economic opportunity from the Caribbean region after World War II, and then there are other Africans who came to the U.S. directly from Africa as immigrants in the 70s and 80s seeking economic opportunities, freedom from oppressive dictatorships back home, and also to attend American colleges and universities.
There are also the children of these African and Caribbean immigrants, who may have been born in the United States and never set foot on the African continent. There are also large numbers of Afro-Latinos in New York and other major populated centers on the east coast. And finally, there are Africans in this country in their official capacity at various African embassies, the World Bank/IMF and other multi-national institutions.
Africans in the Diaspora have formed potent networks in cities and towns where they now live in North America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and elsewhere around the globe, and the African Union wants to take advantage of this dispersal.
These Diaspora Africans have also begun to wield extraordinary political, cultural and economic power — which, the AU now believes, if properly cultivated, can be effectively leveraged to encourage political reform, promote economic development, improve health conditions and reduce poverty across the African continent.
In fact, collectively, there are now an estimated 40 million African descendants living in the United States with a combined purchasing power of about $450 billion per annum – a sum that if represented by a single country would make it one of the fifteen largest economies in the world.
Accordingly, all six groups that make up the African Diaspora in the United States have valuable contributions to make in support of Africa and African development. All six groups also see America through very different prisms, and any effective organizing strategy will have to take into account the hopes, dreams and aspirations of each particular group.
At the start of the 21st century, much of the world began to focus on Africa’s development including Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa, President Bush’s Millennium Challenge Account, Bono’s “One” Campaign, the World Bank’s African Diaspora Initiative, etceteras. While it is great that the world is beginning to finally look at Africa in a more positive manner, it is somewhat ironic that there is no significant effort being called forth by the African-American constituency at this time.
This is largely because African-Americans and their organizations and institutions are not organized in such a manner as to strategically press for Africa-focused initiatives. Consequently, CFA’s strategy for the AAUC has been to influence support of the mobilization of the African-American constituency in response to the African Union Sixth Region’s initiative by targeting civil society leadership.
The aim is to build a broad base of support and understanding in the United States about the African Union (AU), the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) and about development challenges facing Africa, including health issues, conflict resolution and governance, and economic development.