UN’S PERMANENT FORUM OF PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT: ROLE FOR DIASPORA ON ‘THE FUTURE THAT AFRICA DESERVES’

Idris Elba

By Idris Elba

OBE is an English actor, producer and musician. He is of Ghanaian and Sierra Leonean heritage.

 I am pleased if the United Nations General Assembly will make good on its promise to elect members to the newly established Permanent Forum of People of African Descent.

The Forum is designed to champion the rights of Africa’s diaspora and follows the first-ever International Day for People of African Descent. We have much to celebrate. Globally, we have made extraordinary contributions, from Aliko Dangote to Oprah Winfrey; Ngozi Okonjo–Iweala to Mo Ibrahim; from Elon Musk to Felix Konotey-Ahulu.

Reflecting on the African diaspora, the way African talent has altered, elevated and changed the world, I am struck by just how much we have achieved, far from home.onotey-Ahulu.

‘A SON OF THE SOIL’

For 49 years, I have called East London home. I was born there, raised there; built my life there. But home for my parents was West Africa. When, in 2019, I received my Sierra Leonean citizenship, I became, as my father would have said, a son of the soil.

It is hard to describe the feeling of returning to your parent’s home. At once unfamiliar but also so familiar, as if I had known it for a lifetime.

I am incredibly proud of my African heritage. I was privileged to meet with President Maada Bio and was inspired by his administration’s ambitious New Direction agenda which aims to catalyse inclusive economic growth.

Earlier this year President Bio addressed a special session of the UN General Assembly where he outlined Sierra Leone’s commitment to tackling corruption and called for greater cooperation with international partners.

I am proud to see Sierra Leone taking a leading role in coordinating efforts to tackle corruption and witness the significant progress the country has made in reaffirming investor confidence in the region.

Between 2017 and 2019, Sierra Leone experienced an unprecedented 185% increase in foreign investment as the country recovered from the Ebola outbreak. This has included major international investors such as UK’s Winch Energy and France’s Bollore as well as other diaspora investors, such as myself. This demonstrates the international community’s trust in the resilience and longevity of Sierra Leone’s economy.

My father’s home, my home, has the drive, passion, energy and resources to become a regional powerhouse of economic growth whose benefits will reverberate across all of West Africa.

SIERRA LEONE’S EXAMPLE TO THE WORLD

But the world is not acquainted with my Sierra Leone. Internationally, it is remembered as a country recovering from the repercussions of a Civil War or the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak.

Africa is our home. We are children of the soil, and we all have a role to play in the new ‘African Century’.

The reality is, Sierra Leone has a proud tradition of peaceful democratic transfers of power in the decades following the Civil War and has been declared Ebola-free since 2016.

Sierra Leone has also taken concerted steps to foster investor confidence. It ranks higher than both the United States and France in the Global Peace Index and has a higher Index of Transaction Security than Germany.

‘WE HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY’

Given my own experiences as an international entrepreneur and member of the African diaspora who is actively investing in developmental projects and involved in charitable activity in Sierra Leone, I have seen the difference we can make. We have a role to play in disrupting the current disconnect between investor perceptions and the realities of modern-day Sierra Leone.

We should embrace our role as international emissaries and investors to strengthen the bonds between local communities and investors as a means of fostering sustainable development opportunities across the continent.

I believe the new Permanent Forum of People of African Descent is the next step for my fellow members of the diaspora to recognise their role as the facilitators of the future that Africa deserves.

Africa is our home. We are children of the soil, and we all have a role to play in the new ‘African Century’.

Courtesy of Calabash 27 September 2021

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