The African American Unity Caucus (AAUC) is a CFA program that was established in 2002. It is a non-partisan alliance of committed leaders and organizations of African ancestry focused on issues affecting Africa and the African Diaspora. The mission of the AAUC is to marshal human, material and social capital in order to enhance the overall sustainable development of African people. Through strategic decision-making, the AAUC will initiate and foster actions, and forge effective partnerships, among public and private entities in Africa and the African Diaspora and impact U.S. foreign policy. The AAUC’s highest priority is the education and engagement of the African-American constituency in the affairs of Africa. Jeannine B. Scott, Senior Vice President of Africare is the Coordinator of the AAUC.
Some of the groups actively participating in the AAUC network include, Africare, TransAfrica, National Council of Negro Women, Constituency for Africa, African American Institute, Africa Society, Phelps Stokes Fund, American Association of Blacks in Energy, Leadership Africa-USA, D.C. – Dakar Sister Cities Program, Black Professionals in International Affairs, American and African Business Women’s Alliance, Africa Action, Institute of Caribbean Studies, Emancipation Support Group, the Sullivan Foundation and the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help and the African Diaspora Association of Canada.
Through the auspices of CFA, the AAUC has been able to establish and maintain high level contacts with a number of African governments and institutions such as the African Union, the NEPAD Secretariat in South Africa and the Global Trust Fund to Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis. There was also a concerted effort to establish and cement informational, organizational and where possible, programmatic linkages with African civil society organizations such as the African Humanitarian Action based in Ethiopia, the Pan-African Strategic and Peace Research Group (ASTRAG) based in Nigeria, and the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) a pan-African organization based in Senegal.
The AAUC also expanded its linkages and sought the participation of U.S.-based African groups, such as the Federation of African Organizations, the National Council of Ghanaian Associations, and the Ethiopia America Constituency group. While the AAUC thought it important to continue to build and maintain strategic relationships with the official government and multi-lateral organizations, for an effective and sustainable advocacy here in the United States, it believed it is also important to have regular contact, buy-in and feedback from the African grassroots organizations and civil society participants as well as from continental African groups in this country. As a result, the AAUC has been able to successfully orchestrate a public education and advocacy campaign to increase the participation of African-Americans in the newly-established African Union’s Sixth Region (i.e. Africans living in the Diaspora).
According to the African Union, the African Diaspora consist of people of African origin living outside of the continent, irrespective of citizenship and nationality and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and building of the African Union. The African Union estimates that the African Diaspora represents approximately 39.2 million people in North America (United States and Canada), 112.6 million people in South America (primarily Brazil, Columbia and Venezuela), 13.5 million people in the Caribbean Islands, and about 3.5 million people in Europe.
The African Diaspora in the United States is comprised of six distinct groups. The bulk are Africans whose ancestors came to the United States in the belly of slave ships in the 1600s. There are also Africans who migrated to the U.S. in search of education and economic opportunity from the Caribbean region after World War II and then there are other Africans who came to the U.S. directly from Africa as immigrants in the 70s and 80s seeking economic opportunities, freedom from oppressive dictatorships back home, and also to attend American colleges and universities. There are also the children of these African and Caribbean immigrants, who may have been born in the United States and never set foot on the African continent. There are also large numbers of Afro-Latinos in New York and other major populated centers on the east coast. And finally, there are Africans in this country in their official capacity at various African embassies, the World Bank/IMF and other multi-national institutions.
Africans in the Diaspora have formed potent networks in cities and towns where they now live in North America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and elsewhere around the globe, and the African Union wants to take advantage of this dispersal. These Diaspora Africans have also begun to wield extraordinary political, cultural and economic power — which, the AU now believes, if properly cultivated, can be effectively leveraged to encourage political reform, promote economic development, improve health conditions and reduce poverty across the African continent.
In fact, collectively, there are now an estimated 40 million African descendants living in the United States with a combined purchasing power of about $450 billion per annum – a sum that if represented by a single country would make it one of the fifteen largest economies in the world. Accordingly, all six groups that make up the African Diaspora in the United States have valuable contributions to make in support of Africa and African development. All six groups also see America through very different prisms, and any effective organizing strategy will have to take into account the hopes, dreams and aspirations of each particular group.
At the start of the 21st century, much of the world began to focus on Africa’s development including Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa, President Bush’s Millennium Challenge Account, Bono’s “One” Campaign, the World Bank’s African Diaspora Initiative, etceteras. While it is great that the world is beginning to finally look at Africa in a more positive manner it is somewhat ironic that there is no significant effort being called forth by the African-American constituency at this time. This is largely because African-Americans and their organizations and institutions are not organized in such a manner as to strategically press for Africa-focused initiatives.
Consequently, CFA’s strategy for the AAUC has been to influence support of the mobilization of the African-American constituency in response to the African Union Sixth Region’s initiative by targeting civil society leadership. The aim is to build a broad base of support and understanding in the United States about the African Union (AU), the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) and about development challenges facing Africa, including health issues, conflict resolution and governance, and economic development.
CFA recognizes the incredible opportunity and potential to link African-American and African decision-makers and stakeholders through the AAUC and related advocacy initiatives. To this end, CFA envisions the following successful outcomes:
— Enhancement of the capacity of African-American and African leaders to take a pro-active role in collaborating and cooperating amongst each other in order to build the necessary constituency required to sustain the goals and objectives of the AU’s Sixth Region.
–Development of an effective and relevant resource database system that will provide ongoing news and information for analysis and strategic planning.
–Establishment of a useful conduit for the promotion and discussion of the challenges and required solutions for ongoing support of the AU’s Sixth Region initiatives.
–Further strengthen the advocacy skills and capabilities of African-focused non-governmental organizations and other relevant members of civil society.
–Building an institutionally structured foundation for the future leaders of an Africa-focused advocacy agenda with and between African and African-American students attending historically black colleges and universities.
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