And if the renew of France-Africa and Europe-Africa relationships depended on young entrepreneurs and digital? That was one of the questions asked during the 8th African Diasporas National days (JNDA), which occurred from 24th to 26th September in Bordeaux in France. An event that becomes year after year, the start of the reflection, and the building of the France-Africa relationship renew. It used for that, its best asset, African diasporas, more active than ever in associative, economic, and political domains.
By Dounia Ben Mohamed, from Bordeaux
“The JNDA, it’s the boat return,” said Manu Dibango, a regular of this event before his death. This 8th edition was a tribute for him. The boat’s return because Bordeaux has been one of the most important ports concerning slaves trafficking in France. 150 000 black slaves passed by Bordeaux from 1672 to 1837. But now, the city tries to renew France-Africa relationships: academic exchanges, economic and cultural connections, cooperation with Ouagadougou, Oran, Douala, etc., and of course, the JNDA. An initiative started by Pierre De Gaétan Njikam, a Franco-Cameroonian politician who worked in the Bordeaux’s city hall on Africa and french-speaking countries, until the last local election.
Interview Pierre de Gaetan Njikam, founder of the JNDA
But even if he lost the city hall’s keys, his commitment to the territory and the France-Africa relationship renew is still strong: “remake Africa together,” according to his credo. Now he’s betting on one of the best assets, the African diasporas creating links. Links highlighted during JNDA since 2015 when afro-optimism was not in, and diasporas didn’t solicit as much interest as they do today.
The “resilience” edition
This 2020 edition, the one of the “resilience,” according to its instigator, reported due to Covid-19 and finally maintained highlighted entrepreneurship and women. First, with the Numafs, the Bordeaux-Africa digital meetings, with the Mister Africa Tech, Samir Abdelkrim, founder of EMERGING Valley, and the French Tech Bordeaux director, Philippe Metayer. They analyzed the African ecosystem’s answer to the health crisis, illustrating their statements with Susu, a digital solution set up by Bola Bardet, an entrepreneur, virtually present at the event to talk about her experience. A concrete demonstration of the contribution of African diasporas to renew France-Africa and even Europe-Africa relationships. A necessity to face American and Asian digital giants.
Interview Philippe Meteyer, DG French Tech Bordeaux
This dialogue was followed by the traditional Women’s day, which finally lasts only one afternoon. This meeting gathered digital women entrepreneurs from the diaspora and instigated by Denise Epoté, a JNDA’s regular. Fatim Cissé, Diana Brondel, Soumia Malinbaum, Julie Abisségué, Nelly Chatue-Diopn exchanged about AI challenges, blockchain, fintech…
Interview Diana Brondel, CEO Xaalys
“As politicians, advisers, you have an impact!”
Some politicians from the diaspora, the deputy mayor of Paris in charge of international relationships, a regional deputy from Ile-de-France Maxence Ansel, or the African diasporas council president Serge Bakoa were also present, like numerous others. They interchanged ideas about the diaspora’s function.
“We are here, exactly two years after with Alain Juppée (the previous mayor of Bordeaux) and other politicians, we launched a political initiative to mobilize politics around a big action, on a local and national level,” reminded Pierre De Gaétan Njikam. This initiative provided the first African diaspora’ summer universities, co-organized by the presidential council for Africa (CPA) and animated by Didier Acouetey, the AfricSearch president.
The African counselor of Emmanuel Macron, Marie Audouard, and the CPA president, Wilfrid Lauriano do Rego, were also here and heard the “fatigue” regarding the redundancy of speeches, promises, and the lack of actions and results as Didier Acouetey explained. “I feel like I’m hearing the same things for 30 years. In the ’80s, the ’90s, we heard the same story… a little bit folkloric. For the young African, what changes when we say to him, we’ll teach you french, build a football field, give you the scholarship to come to Bordeaux. Do we reinvent the France-Africa relationships?” For him, it’s “a public speech that peters out and becomes inaudible and hard to believe in.” He compares it to “the Chinese speech.” “When we say to a young African that he’ll learn mandarin, get a hospital in 3 months, there are no debts anymore, but billions of investments. We change the paradigm.” He regrets the “lack of ambition” of the French politic in Africa that didn’t change despite announces. “As politicians, advisers, members of the CPA, you have an impact! If we want to reinvent things, to hear something different about Africa, we need to do more than what we did for the last 30 years.”
Diasporas to boost changes
“And get to work,” said Maxence Ansel, underlining “the needs of truth” of diasporas representatives. “In our neighborhoods, our kids who are dropping school are in difficulties. It is good to give money, but who benefits? People don’t like France anymore, the youth especially. As binationals, representatives, what do we do? If we don’t say this truth, we represent nobody, neither our neighborhood neither our kids. It’s nice to be a representative, have titles, but let’s do our work. There is a lot of it!”
A hard argument heard by Marie Audouard, African counselor of Emmanuel Macron. She certified that diasporas were a big part of the president’s plan for Africa. “We are convinced that it will be an accelerator of this change, because, by definition, people from the diaspora know the importance of an equal partnership between the African continent and France.” She also announced an event about civil society and youth in 2021.
Interview Latifa Kharja-Tehhoune
The new mayor of Bordeaux, Pierre Hurmic, announced the city hall’s support for the next editions of the JNDA and the strong initiatives that will come out from this event. And its instigator will not give up. The 9th edition is already planned in May 2021.
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