They have a saying in Uganda: "A guest sees more in an hour than a host in a year." So spare a thought for us at African Peoples Advocacy (APA). We will be hosting people, not for an hour, but for five hours on 2nd August, and we are excitedly wondering what our guests will make of this experience.
APA is organising the inaugural African Diaspora Summer Festival in London on the aforementioned date. Our think tank was created in the UK in 2008 to engage and educate African communities as well as the wider public on topics that are of relevance to Africans in the Diaspora and in Africa. The Festival is an ideal platform for us to fulfil these objectives. We envision it as an annual event that will celebrate and highlight the positive contribution of the African Diaspora to the UK, Africa, and the world.
We hope to edify our guests every year by showcasing outstanding members of the African Diaspora whose background, skills and experience have enabled them to become catalysts for inspirational change and practical progress. We also hope that the Festival will provide annual networking, business and entertainment opportunities not only for members of the African Diaspora, but also for the wider British public including lecturers, investors, lawyers, broadcasters, cultural observers, and other interested people.
In addition, the inaugural African Diaspora Summer Festival marks a crucial turning point for us at APA. Our organisation has had outstanding achievements in barely five years of existence. To mention but a few: APA has produced many policy and research papers that have been discussed by MPs, academics, journalists, as well as policy and decision-makers in the UK, Africa, Europe, and elsewhere; it delivered the first ever Africa Day Lecture at the UK Parliament in 2011, and, shortly afterwards, launched the Pitching Africa initiative -a series of briefings aimed at highlighting Africa's potential as a land of investment and business opportunities.
However, APA has not yet engaged actively with young people. We hope to start doing that thanks to the inaugural African Diaspora Summer Festival. We are raising funds through this event in order to launch a Youth Engagement and Education programme. The cornerstone of this programme will be to galvanise African Diaspora and other youths into raising their levels of achievement and aspiration.
We plan to launch the pilot project in London in September. From September 2013 to March 2014, 10 youths will be enrolled in the programme. Throughout this 6-month period, they will receive: motivational sessions from successful members of the African Diaspora; coaching sessions to boost their self-esteem and confidence; mentorship from positive role models; internship and apprenticeship opportunities, and lessons encouraging them to model their behaviour on the constructive examples of inspiring African figures such as Wangari Maathai, Nelson Mandela and Cheikh Anta Diop.
We are delighted at the support that our inaugural African Diaspora Summer Festival has received. Lisa Merton, co-producer of Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai, has given us permission to screen this multi-award-winning documentary at the Festival. Motherland Music, the managers of Senegalese music star Youssou N'Dour, will be providing entertainment. In addition, prominent members of the African Diaspora, including Oba Nsugbe QC, Rolake Akinkugbe of Head of Energy Research at Ecobank, and Washington Kapapiro, Chairman of the Association for African Owned Enterprises, have all agreed to participate in our debate on the African Diaspora's contribution to the UK and Africa. Furthermore, the outstanding African caterers Maestro Bar Restaurant have reduced their standard fees in order to offer a 3-course dinner to our guests.
We look forward to welcoming many of you at the Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre on 2nd August.
Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell is the Executive Director of African Peoples Advocacy (www.apadvocacy.org ) and winner of the 2013 African Diaspora Award in the category of Community Hero.