What is development? Why do we call some countries developed and other lesser advanced? The answers to these questions were tackled by a group of African immigrants and NGO representatives at the informal meeting of the CoMide project in the Swing Café in Bratislava, on 15 September.
What exactly is the development? I can imagine development as one long rail along which a train is running, in the first wagons are those who are “financially solvent” and the back wagons are populated by lesser welled people. Why would you think any of the rich ones would be eager to get the poor ones to the VIP wagons, commented the African artist and drummer Thierry Ebama.
The truth is that in Kenya are seeded billion of euros for development assistance, but there are not visible improvements and investments, reminded Kibo Sakong from Kenya. He added that on the basis of these investments people in Kenya should have had very good life however the reality is quite different.
The immigrants from Africa living in Europe could also contribute to a better distribution of financial assistance. According to Achille Kanhonou, Slovakia could base its Diaspora networks on the former students establishing good contacts in Benin, for example, and to contact the organizations that have professional experience of setting up health centers or related service.
To make the African immigrants contribute more to the poverty reduction in their native countries, it would need more recognition of their status in Europe and engaging them in the policy-making. Many of them are scattered across Slovakia and the fact that each of these experiences in a way difficult integration into the Slovak society linked to poverty and a lack of efforts on solving common problems. The Slovak society is still against people of different skin colour racist tuned, reminded participants. It makes them impossible in participating common projects with other organizations from Slovakia.
The main problem of the African community in Slovakia is that it is not united. As commented by Mr. Camara,one of the founders of a couple Africa Diaspora organization in SLovakia, not active any more: “I do hardly pronounce the word “African community” because the fact is that there is not an unified one and therefore I also take this opportunity that we, the Africans, can freely and openly talk about some of the details of our relationships and our lives in Slovakia.”
Throughout the lengthy discussion the participants not only learn more about the opportunities offered to foreigners, but mainly they had the opportunity to talk openly about their problems and begin to unite the African community in Slovakia. The African community in Slovakia is facing many problems. From the eighties there were based several African NGOs in Bratislava, none of them exist longer. The participants acknowledged that many of them are suffering from poverty and unemployment due to its origin and black skin colour, even though their education level and professionalism. “We are still faced with intolerant behaviour of the employers and society. As we communicate by telephone and in writing we promise to work, but as soon as they see us look at it with different eyes and immediately refuse to do with us,” the young participants confirmed .
“The only way to improve your position in Slovakia is not to hide because of racist hate speech in society and the workplace, but spread more and often various activities in order to enable the ordinary person understand that every immigrant is an asset of the SLovak Society,” said Mr. Ebama. The African community gets into the consciousness of the Slovaks mainly through art and music. Nevertheless, it is also necessary to develop and ensure a common area, where Africans are able to meet and work with young people and show them the diversity of the world through art, crafts and games.
“We need a safe space,” reminded the participants. Once the AFrican community is awarded public recognition the Diaspora could become more active in development initiatives and get encouraged to contribute to the development of their communities of origin.