The Official Opening of the Global Diaspora Week 2017 at the European Union level was held on October 9, 2017 at the European Parliament in Brussels under the theme of “Innovation & Entrepreneurship: the Role of Diaspora in transforming Africa. 

The Global Diaspora Week (GDW) celebrate the contributions of Diaspora Communities to global development. GDW is intended to create awareness, enable collaboration and enhance learning amongst those working with diaspora communities in different locations around the world. *

The Celebration of this week at the European Union Level was initiated in 2015 by the African Diaspora Network in Europe in collaboration with the African Union and the European Union.

This year edition organized in partnership with African Perspective Magazine (TAP), Global Africa and Africa-Europe Diaspora Development Platform (ADEPT) was graced by eminent personalities and officials from different African and European institutions and African embassies accredited to the European Union. Among the personalities were H.E Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President of Malta, Patron of Global Africa, Dr. Denis Mukwege, Laureate of the Sakharov Prize and Founder of Panzi Hospital, H.E Louis Michel, Minister of State, Member of the European Parliament, Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, H.E Amadou Diop, Ambassador of Senegal to Belgium and the EU and Chairman of the ACP Committee of Ambassadors , H.E. Mr Lembit Uibo, Ambassador, Estonian Permanent Representative to the PSC; Ambassador to Belgium, Madam Cécile Kyenge Kashetu, Member of the European Parliament and Mr. Luc Tanoh, COO of the Akon Lighting Africa. 

The official Opening was crowned by the Ceremony for the “African Diaspora Entrepreneurship Award 2017-ADEAward 2017. Akon Lighting Africa Initiative is the Laureate of ADEAward2017. Akon Lighting Africa was recognized as an innovative and impactful initiative from the Diaspora.

Created by Aliou Badara Thiam (AKON), Thione Niang and Samba Bathily, Diaspora members from Senegal and Mali, Akon Lighting Africa aims at widening the access to electricity in Africa by using by solar energy. With a starting budget of $ 1 billion, Akon Lighting Africa is already present in 15 countries and 480 localities. The project tackles a key challenge at the root of the underdevelopment in Africa. almost 600 million inhabitants live without electricity, particularly in rural areas.

In his opening remark MEP Louis Michel recalled that the lack of electricity undermines the efforts towards sustainable development and causes significant economic losses. He saluted Akon Lighting Africa as a great example of the positive contribution of the Diaspora to development.

“I am very pleased that ADNE has recognized, as part of the Global Diaspora Week 2017, the Akon Lighting Africa project which aims at developping solar energy to electrify the African continent. The diaspora is a huge lever of development. Diaspora members participate in a better knowledge of the world and make us understand daily that “we are human only through the humanity of others.” (MEP Louis Michel)

During the Award Ceremony, Mrs. Marie Chantal Uwitonze, President of ADNE, recalling ADNE theme for 2017 “Diaspora investment and industrialisation of Africa” highlighted the importance of the access to energy in the industrialisation process.

“Access to energy is key for the creation of sustainable infrastructure, telecommunication and transport means that are the cornerstone of the industrial Agenda. We couldn’t find a better initiative than Akon Lighting Africa to reflect on what the Diaspora can do for sustainable development.” Mrs. Marie Chantal Uwitonze

Dr. Denis Mukwege, laureate of the Sakharov Prize, renowned for his humanitarian work in the treatment of women who have been gang-raped by rebel forces highlighted the consequences of the lack of Electricity in Hospital like Panzi Hospital where the problem of electricity limits the access the surgery operations causing loss of life for many women.

Mr. Luc Tanoh, COO of Akon Lighting Africa committed to provide the hospital with Solar electricity to support the work of Dr. Mukwege.

The Opening Ceremony was preceded by a workshop under the Topic of “Innovation & Entrepreneurship: the Role of Diaspora in transforming Africa.”

During the debate Panellists exchanged about different challenges and opportunities for innovative projects from diaspora that can take for meaningful impact in shaping the future of Africa. The panel showcased the work of different institutions and organization including ADNE, UNIDO, ADEPT, Netherlands-African Business Council, European Commission… and highlighted successful diaspora projects such as Akon Lighting Africa and Ewala.

Read the message of H.E Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President of Malta 


Copyrights Thomas Daems, Raymon Dassi & Jessica Rutayisire

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