For the first time, nearly 50 African heads of state are convening in Washington, D.C. for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, and development is on the top of the agenda.
It’s undoubtedly a monumental event, but some Africans are wondering why such a summit can’t take place on their own continent.
“We need to be more involved in African development,” Patrick Elat, a Cameroonian consultant for the World Bank, told Devex. “And when I say we, it’s Africans.”
Elat was speaking on the sidelines of the Growth and Opportunity in Africa Forum on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, the second day of the summit. The event, hosted by U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), brought together a wide selection of African policymakers and young leaders to discuss economic growth and security on the continent.
These are important issues for the Cameroonian, but he said those in the audience are mainly the elite and they aren’t representative of the majority of African people.
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“A talk like this… a dialogue surrounding development issues in Africa… needs to take place in Africa, for the Africans,” Elat explained — and others at the forum agreed.
Oladeji Tiamiyu is a recent graduate from the University of Toledo who hopes to work in international development. He said it’s obvious the African people want peace, running water, and electricity, but if they aren’t actively involved in the process, they’ll have no control.
He called this “tyrannical.”
Tiamiyu suggested that if a summit of this nature was held in Africa, the people could more easily voice what they are most concerned about, and frame the dialogue more effectively.
“It would be on their front steps,” he said. “They would be actively going to whichever government institution was holding the event.”
Others at the forum emphasized that these discussions in Washington, D.C. are good first steps. Jonah Mbaza Aboni, a Ghanaian graduate student at the University of Notre Dame was glad to see that development in Africa is being actively discussed.
But he also asked: “How do we go beyond the talking?”
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