Written by Evelyne Mudahemuka
On May 16th British Columbia Senator Mobina Jaffer provided the opening keynote address at the Canadian Institute for Development Research and Strategic Studies on Africa (CIDRESSA) Conference. The event, held in Montreal, focused on rethinking development, cooperation, and partnerships between Canada and Africa. Senator Jaffer spoke compellingly of the relationship that exists between Canada and Africa.
She talked about the role Canada has played in Africa’s development through organizations like the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and non-governmental organizations like OXFAM- CANADA AND OXFAM – QUEBEC, the Centre for International Studies and Cooperation, as well as many other organizations and NGOs, that are working to build lasting solutions to global poverty, injustice, and development capacity.
Canada should make trade, commercial relationships, and investment a key focus of its involvement with sub-Saharan Africa.
However, it is unrealistic and unfair for the international community to expect African countries to make economic gains without overhauling international trade practices that hold them back while systemically favouring rich countries, a fact reported by the Senate in its 2007 report entitled Overcoming 40 Years of Failure, a New Road Map for Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Fostering trade relationships with Africa will strengthen the countries within this continent in a much better way than just providing developmental aid”, said Senator Jaffer. Africa possesses two important advantages: it offers a huge potential market for the world and returns on investment in Africa are rarely below 10 per cent.
The Senator spoke of how African-Canadians need to mobilize to affect the way their government manages affairs with African countries. She mentioned her wish to see more consular services provided across the continent. It is not enough to have more than one embassy serving four countries. Senator Jaffer asked conference attendees to work together to find one voice for the continent. She said, “It’s time we worked together to solve African problems.”
Toward the end of her remarks Senator Jaffer mentioned her life-changing experience serving as the Canadian Special Envoy to South Sudan and Darfur. She also mentioned her current initiatives to assist women and children in conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She said, “It is an honour to represent Africa in the Senate.”