In the last few years Africa has seen some positive developments, in particular with peaceful democratic transitions in Ghana, Gambia, Somaliland and most recently in Liberia. But several other countries, notably South Sudan, Mali, the DRC and the CAR have seen both insecurity and governance challenges increase a great deal.
In Canada, we have a newish government that speaks more positively about international development challenges, brings a strong committment to feminist issues, and is committed towards Africa in terms of its spending (50% of bilateral aid), but that spending itself does not appear to be increasing despite Canada’s relatively healthy fiscal position. Moreover, the commitments to increased attention to peacekeeping, and in particular in Africa, do not appear to be forthcoming. Very little of our attention to climate change is oriented towards helping the most affected countries – often in Africa – cope with the change that is already unavoidable.
All of this leads me to conclude that the raison d’être for the ASG when Bob Fowler founded it over ten years ago is still pertinent.
However, the business model of the ASG has changed in recent months, as you will have seen. More of our events have been in the form of co-sponsorhips with other organizations, and we have not followed the traditional pattern of public meetings on the last Wednesday of the month. That change reflects the fact that we are no longer able to obtain rooms without charge at St Paul’s.
As you know, our next event will be at Ottawa City Hall’s Richmond Room tomorrow at 5:30PM, and will be about the role of the Tuaregs in the Sahel. We are also trying to prepare events in the next few months on some of the following issues: questions around migration linked to the issue of slavery among migrants in Libya; developments in the African publishing industry, along with a presentation of the work of CODE, a Canadian NGO supporting literacy training and children’s publishing in Africa; an exploration of mining sector issues through the work of Impact, formerly Partnership-Africa-Canada; the proposed new Canadian CSR Ombudsman about CSR of Canadian business abroad; and if we can find the right interlocuteurs, the changes (or lack thereof) in Zimbabwe and Kenya. We are also open to suggestions of topics (preferably with suggested presenters) from members!
In order to facilitate your own planning, we will try to target Wednesdays in the last half of the month for future meetings.
Now the money issue. In the short-run (till next summer) we continue to benefit from funding obtained by CIC NCB from IDRC. The thousand dollars a year has let us maintain the website, provide some financial assistance to sessions we co-sponsor, pay some transportation costs to our speakers and for the next few months, rent rooms for public events. The Steering Group will be coming back to you to propose options for going forward. We may need to propose some options for member-financing, and there are over 200 of you, which is a strong base to work with.
Any members with suggestions should be free to contact members of the Steering Group (see below) over the next month or so or to write to the ASG:
Bruce Montador (Chair) François Arsenault
Louise Ouimet (Past Chair) Marcia Burdette
Megan Michaud (Secretary) Bahlbi Malk
Tapha Kasse (Webmaster) Negash Haile Benjamin Musampa