Global Intelligentsia brainstorm on Africa in the Atlantic #atl_dialogues #ocppolicycenter

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Experts from Think Tanks from 80 nations including the media brainstorm on Africa in the Atlantic, changing its narratives and the place of emerging leaders in solving the development challenges facing the continent

By Maureen Chigbo, reporting from Marrakech, Morocco

THE  sixth edition of the Atlantic Dialogues 2017 which held from December 13 to 15, in Marrakech, Morocco, may have may have come and gone but its echoes will continue to resound in countries across the Atlantic. The conference with the theme: “Africa in The Atlantic: Time for Action” had about 350 intelligentsia from 80 nations in Africa, North America, Europe and Asia participating. The participants, including emerging leaders debated rebalancing relations between the North and the South without being ideological. Africa was at the centre of the debate of the conference that deliberated also on how to improve public policy to accelerate the political, socio-economic, agricultural and infrastructural development of the continent by leveraging on available modern day technology.

Organized by the OCP Policy Center, a think tank based in Rabat, Morocco, the three-day dawn-to-dusk conference was quite engaging. It made use of technology to make proceedings interactive and inclusive simultaneously. As panelists discussion are ongoing, questions for the audience asked by moderators also displayed on the screen elicited instant voting from them through already downloaded app on the Atlantic Dialogue, AD, with the results being announced pronto to show their position on issues being debated. One of such votes was on whether superpowers care about Africa to which 61 percent of the audience said no.

The Atlantic Dialogues 2017 began with the launch of the 4th edition of the Atlantic Currents: An Annual Report on Wider Atlantic Perspectives and Patterns. The conference also witnessed torrent flow of information on various topics ranging from open conversation on Africa owning its narrative; state of the world economy and its implications for development; how to promote regional integration in Africa to financing infrastructures in Africa. Other discussions were on security in the Sahel and the Transatlantic implications; migration, economics and security; agricultural policy in Africa and technological change; security vis-a-vis jobless growth; lessons from foreign military interventions in Africa; building South South partnerships for development and security and what is the common cause for the next generation of emerging leaders among other things.

Also, the 6th edition of the Atlantic Dialogues tried to build a community of the wider Atlantic to have a larger broader  perception of the traditional transatlantic relations which is mainly Europe and United States, US, to move it down south and integrate Africa and of course, Latin America, says Karim Aynaoui, managing director of OCP Policy Center.

Emerging Leaders panel at the Atlantic Dialogues moderated by Zeinab Badawi, Director, Kush Communications (Middle)
Emerging Leaders panel at the Atlantic Dialogues moderated by Zeinab Badawi, Director, Kush Communications (Middle)

According to him, two things are being pushed in the Atlantic Dialogues. First is the rebalancing between North and South and making the conference the platform where the North meets the South to discuss issues of common interest both economics, security and human development. The second objective is to rebalance between generations. This is why 80 emerging leaders participated in the conference. “We are not just doing it in terms of the topics we cover but in terms of the people we have here. And I think what is important, for African and advanced economies, is what space you want to give to the next generation. We are seeing political developments and demands from societies both in the North and in the South that are demanding more space for this young generation,” Aynaoui told Realnews in an interview.

He is also concerned about changing the narrative on Africa on the migration. “It cannot only be the worries of Europe because 80 percent of the migrants actually move within Africa. It’s only 10 or 12 percent that are moving to Europe. So you have to go beyond the security approach to migration,” he said.

The OCP Policy Center appears quite on track in achieving its objective going by the views of the participants at the AD 2017.

John E. Yearwood, executive board chairman, International Press Institute, IPI, found the conference very rewarding, describing it as “quite good; a great way to meet people from the Atlantic basin; a great way to get views of people about the latest information affecting the region”.

“There is so much information. You have to pace yourself; there is so much coming out of here. It could be the strength. The real strength is people in the room getting to meet and make contact. It’s the best place for networking,” Yearwood said.

For David Applefield, special representative for Africa, the Middle East and Emerging Markets, Financial Times Business, the big takeaway is that there were tremendous amount of intellectuals, business people that have a lot of insight that has to be shared. “We are now crossing cultural and intellectual borders and we  need to build tangible projects going by these bridges. The challenge of how to talk about the big picture while also drilling down on examining the obstacles and creating solutions at the same time thinking of the atlantic coast as a unifying point of departure should stimulate wholly new areas of collaboration,” Applefield said.

Similarly, Funola Otakoya, a participant who works with a Climate investment company, likes the conference a lot because it shows that there is a great need for south south co-operation and also for the need for youth actors on the region to get involved to solve the problem. “All the tools necessary to solve them are here in Africa, whether it is human capital, economic of technology,” he said,

For Francis Anyaegbu, one of the emerging leaders, the Atlantic Dialogues is a laudable initiative which should be encouraged to continue because bringing people that matter to define the fate of the Atlantic Basin is key. “This year’s conference focused on Africa. There is no better time to focus than now because it’s a rising continent which cannot be ignored. This is a platform that brings emerging leaders and the older generation of leaders. The convergence of thought, ideas is quite key,” he said

The conference was also quite interesting for ‘Laoye Jaiyeola, one of the panelists, also chief executive officer, Nigerian Economic Summit Group, who is attending for the first time. For him, the keyword after conferences like AD is implementation. “Goods ideas and good interaction between the south to south. But then we should move on to the level of implementation.”

Oby Ezekwesili with other panelists
Oby Ezekwesili with other panelists

Oby Ezekwesili, senior adviser, Africa Economic Development and Policy Initiative, whose every intervention on the floor of the conference received  applause, sees the big takeaway from the conference as first fixing African politics so that quality of leadership can emerge to take well tasted solution that abound that can accelerate Africa’s development. “The symbol of Africa’s need to accelerate economic prosperity is the illegal migration that takes the lives of some Africans in the Mediterranean Sea and enslaves some others in the 21st century. Africa has come of age to seize on all its potentials and claim the 21st century. It’s establishing its own identity. It is an important platform for Africa in inviting other people from across the world to discuss many more global crisis and global opportunities on an Atlantic dialogue basis,” she said.

Agreeing, Rumbididzai Chisenga, one of the emerging leaders, said the AD 2017 has been a wonderful platform to meet established leaders and to seat in counsel. However, “What has been difficult is to try to digest all the information coming from the experts and consolidate it into actions that can take to move Africa forward. Africa is the main theme of the conference. Several conversations revolve around Africa. Conversation has been interesting and challenging because there is a lot said about what needs to change but rather very little discussion on how we can go about effecting the change,” Chisenga said.

After all the brainstorming, participants had time to relax at the sumptuous gala dinner and dance to the music provided by artful performers such as Bnat Timbuktu, a new generation Moroccan gnaoua musical troupe, Moroccan Nabyla Maan, Maalem Boussou; Senegalese Woz Kaly, and Brazilian Margareth Menezes, who thrilled them tremendously. It was a night to remember just as the lessons from the Atlantic Dialogues will continue to lurk in the minds of all who attended the conference.

– Dec . 28, 2017 @ 11: 10 GMT |

 

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