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Yaounde Declaration: Africa’s answer to stop the continent’s mass rural exodus

Representatives from over 30 African countries held discussion about Africa's plan to improve roads, provide education and energy in the rural areas

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In this photo taken June 20, 2016, pedestrians shop at a market in Lagos, Nigeria. Source-VOA
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  • Experts from over 30 African countries met in Yaounde, Cameroon, for a Forum on Rural Development
  • During the week-long discussions, they devised a plan to control influx of African migrants taking long and perilous journey to Europe and the US, to find work
  • At the end of the discussions, Experts adopted, The Yaounde declaration, which calls for development in rural areas so that the African youth don’t have to make the dangerous trip to Europe for seeking employment

AFRICA, September 11, 2016: Representatives of 30 African countries have been working this week to map out ways to stop the continent’s mass rural exodus at the Forum on Rural Development in Yaounde.

Emmanuel Afessi works on his desktop at Odja center in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, where he is training 30 youths on information technologies at the center he created when he returned from the United States a year ago.

“Africa needs to produce its own knowledge, its own equipment and that is why we want to train people within the continent,” he said. “ICTs help close the gap between the developed and the developing world much faster than any technology including the motor vehicles. It is a large contributor to most African countries GDPs today. Think about just the whole aspects of internet and mobile phone. That is a huge multi-billion dollar market.”

The 33-year-old Afessi says he was unemployed and fled to Paris and then the United States, where he was denied refugee status. He says he could not find work and decided to return home, sell his father’s piece of land, and open the ICT center.

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Afessi was part of Africa’s rapidly growing population of emigrants. The U.N. Refugee Agency reports estimates this year nearly 47,000 migrants have reached Italy, the vast majority of them Sub-Saharan Africans.

A representative of Kenyan civil society organizations at the Forum on Rural Development, Vitalis Abbasi, says many of the migrants are highly educated, but unemployed and are traveling from rural areas in search of opportunities.

“If the roads were good, the energy systems were well, we could also access information and communication technologies, a lot of people will stay in those areas,” said Abbasi. “We could lift people up in those areas by pulling agriculture production up. So once people get a bit more money in their pockets, it is now easier for the rest of the economy to grow because when a lot of rural people have a bit more money in their pockets, even up to $2 per day average, they start consuming industrial goods, also manufacturing our own goods, rather than always depending on importing.”

Experts from 30 African countries adopted what they call the Yaounde declaration that invites Africa to invest more in the rural areas youths are deserting. They say Africa is losing its trained human capital if current trends continue.

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The head of program implementation at the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, Estherine Fotabong, says governments should have the political will to create enabling environments for the private sector and civil society groups.

“We still have the majority of Africans living in rural areas, despite the rapid urbanization rates and from different studies the projection is that up to 2035 that will still be the case,” said Fotabong. “We still have most Africans employed in agriculture and we still have lots of land in our rural areas, so why not invest in social amenities, in infrastructure, in better education systems, in industrialization in rural areas so that youths will not see any reason to leave the rural areas to go to the cities.”

The Yaounde declaration is accompanied by a call for action that requests African heads of state to support the implementation of an action plan being developed to stop Africans from having to make the dangerous trip to Europe. (VOA)

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‘Everyday Africa’ Project to shatter African Stereotypes

Everyday Africa, an Instagram community of photographers who strive to capture ordinary moments of life, such as children picking flowers in a field, or girlfriends chatting at a coffee shop.

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Breaking stereotypes, one post on Instagram ,at a time. Pixabay
Breaking stereotypes, one post on Instagram ,at a time. Pixabay
  • ‘Everyday Africa’ is an Instagram project which aims at eliminating African stereotypes.
  • They photograph everyday life of common Africans to succeed in their initiative.
  •  With approximately 370,000 followers, it is one of the biggest visual libraries of a continent.

When schoolchildren in Washington, D.C., are asked to say the first thing that comes to mind about Africa, they use words like hot, desert, sand, poverty, hunger, war and Ebola.

These are all accurate things to say about that part of the world — but they reflect an “incomplete” picture, says writer Austin Merrill, who together with photojournalist Peter DiCampo has set out to document African reality beyond common stereotypes.

They are the founders of Everyday Africa, an Instagram community of photographers who strive to capture ordinary moments of life, such as children picking flowers in a field, or girlfriends chatting at a coffee shop. Their Instagram following has topped 370,000.

Africa is no more the poor country we think it is, it is time to break the stereotypes.
Africa is no more the poor country we think it is, it is time to break the stereotypes.

In addition to the Instagram feed, the book “Everyday Africa, 30 Photographers Re-Picturing the Continent,” recently hit bookstores in Europe, the United States and certain countries on the African continent. The book is filled with images documenting life in Africa that aim to shatter misconceptions often found in Western media.

Readers see a teenager rollerblading in the streets of Dakar, a DJ playing music in Lagos, a couple looking at the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Town. The book displays the full diversity and visual richness of African life.

Both DiCampo and Merrill invited a diverse “community of photographers” from all over the continent to contribute to the Instagram project and the book. Some are professionals, while others are skilled amateurs.

Ethiopian-American writer Maaza Mengiste prologues the book in an essay focusing on the power of the ordinary. “We sometimes forget that no matter what is happening in our lives, ordinary moments find a way to move forward,” Mengiste writes.

Normality

Peter DiCampo and Austin Merrill, both Americans, met while serving with the Peace Corps in Ivory Coast. In 2012, they received a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in Washington to cover the aftermath of Ivory Coast’s civil war.

While they were interviewing refugees and soldiers, Merrill remembers that around them “the vast majority of life was pretty normal, but that wasn’t coming through in the story that we were trying to put together.”

“We were seeing all these other moments, that were many sorts of truer to our daily life experience in that part of the world,” says DiCampo.

So, they took their cellphones and started to photograph what was around them. They felt, says Merrill, that the normal, everyday scenes of life “might be the most important thing we had to tell about that place, about that moment, instead of the crisis story.”

Media organizations tend to focus on breaking news, often triggered by an evolving crisis. Africa has many of those; but, as Di Campo puts it, “It’s quite difficult to have a global understanding when all you see of other parts of the world are really extreme stories.”

This is the gap that the “Everyday Africa” book is trying to fill; to look at the continent from the inside and from different perspectives.

DiCampo and Merrill, with the support of the Pulitzer Center, have also created media workshops that train elementary school students in the United States on how to document their lives and recognize stereotypes.

“We use the story of how we created Everyday Africa,” said DiCampo, “to engage the students in a discussion of how media representation affects them, their lives and their communities and we use our photography to teach basic photography lessons, so that by the end of the workshop, they have an everyday project for their own school or community.”

This social media model has hit a nerve. “The Everyday Africa platform on Instagram may very well be the biggest visual library of the continent,” writes Ghanaian photographer Nana Kofi Acquah.

“To task African photographers with the burden of changing how the continent is perceived, might be overwhelming,” writes Acquah; but, he adds, “a picture of the real Africa” is slowly emerging. VOA