African Spring: Building a Bridge of Solidarity

A statement by AFFORD’s Executive Director Onyekachi Wambu.

On 25 May, the killing of an African American man in the USA triggered a wave of anger and uprising which many are describing as a kind of African Diaspora Spring. 

Like Arabs during their Spring, many people of African descent, who understand the commonalities and tropes of social, economic, legal oppressions spread across the Western Atlantic civilisational space, have been at the forefront of the calls for change. This space, unleashed by Columbus, has been the most important geo-political reality of the last 500 years – the gold, land and free labour of the conquered and enslaved – transforming the fortunes of the European world, turning small and medium-sized countries into super powers. 

People of African descent have played critical roles in co-creating this civilisational space over the last 400 years but have rarely enjoyed the benefits. George Floyd’s killing by the police was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. It was the moment fear evaporated. 

Since then, large-scale protests have taken place, statutes have toppled, as the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has initiated a global conversation about slavery and colonialism, structural racism and the ways the lives of those of African descent have been marginalised, devalued and in extreme cases, even extinguished. 

The protests have led to wholescale examinations of current interpersonal relations, social practices, institutional behaviour, and national and global policies and frameworks that have produced inequalities and diminished the life chances of people of African descent. 

Many companies and institutions are on a steep learning curve on how to respond to the issues raised by BLM. For AFFORD, as a diasporic organisation, tackling these issues of inequality at the heart of the Atlantic space, has always defined our work and strategies. 

This echoes the work of the first diasporic organisation, Olaudah Equiano’s ‘Sons of Africa’ formed in 1786, which took on the critical work of agitating for the abolition of slavery – the key issue then at the heart of ravaging Africa and her diaspora. The ‘Sons of Africa’ deployed, as we do now, the six forms of diaspora capital – financial, intellectual, political, social, cultural and time – against the terrible institution of slavery, and were important players in leading to the abolition of the trade that enslaved people in 1807 and the institution in 1838.

Today, we carry on in that tradition, providing a bridge of solidarity between Africa and her diaspora, to tackle the legacies of slavery and colonialism – whether in unfair trade practices or capital flows between north or south, racism that produces unequal outcomes in health, education, justice and even in our own development sector, or at the apex of the UN institutions, with the Security Council, the IMF and the World Bank. 

The core message of BLM is the need to accelerate initiatives for reform in the fierce urgency of now.

What can we do together?

More than ever, AFFORD is keen to work with the diaspora, business, governments and others to tackle the unacceptable issues of global inequality that hundreds of years after the abolition of both the trade and institution of slavery, continues to haunt Africans around the globe. 

We continue to do this through:

  • Engagement and practical policy responses which are imperative to tackling inequalities at the personal, institutional, national, and global levels
  • Working collectively with the diaspora and African partners to transform economic fundamentals, create jobs and wealth 
  • Developing and strengthening networks, partnerships and institutions – in direct response to urgent issues arising out of Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, Brexit and climate change – we will initiate a solidarity bridge between African and her diaspora to engage on these matters.

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