As part of UNESCO’s Africa Week for the 2022 edition, a week with the theme “Self-sufficiency, resilience, economic development in Africa”, the Ze-Africanews team had the privilege of conducting an exclusive interview with Mr Souleymane Jules Diop, Permanent Delegate of Senegal to UNESCO. “The African continent must be rooted in its own values, affirm its identity proudly, rediscover the greatness of Africa, past and future,” he said.
Ze-Africanews: Hello Can you introduce yourself?
Mr Souleymane Jules Diop: Good morning. I am Souleymane Jules Diop, Permanent Delegate Ambassador of Senegal to UNESCO. I am also the President of the African Ambassadors Group here at UNESCO.
The integral interview to watch here :
Ze-Africanews: We are at the African Week for this 2022 edition of the epic days happened between the 23rd and the 25th, what are your impressions?
Mr.Souleymane Jules Diop: I am pleased with the importance that all other friendly countries attach to African Week. The Italian ambassador, my friend Massimo, told me this morning about the symbolism of Senegalese culture. The Qatar ambassador told me that this is the only time in the year when we are experiencing something different and very authentic. It is a recognition for Africa and it is also a pride as President of the Group of Ambassadors. It was a great challenge to organize this week. We organized it in a month and a half and it is a gratitude to President Alassane Ouattara who agreed to sponsor it this week. When I sent him a message suggesting that he be the sponsor of this week, he immediately agreed. Not being able to be there, he asked his Prime Minister to represent him here with three other ministers so frankly, it is a great pride. And the enthusiasm that there was this year was commendable with a good organization, an exceptional party and we are very proud of it.
Ze-Africanews: “Self-sufficiency, resilience, economic development of Africa” is the theme of this edition why this choice?
Mr.Souleymane Jules Diop: In a global context where a war is taking place thousands of kilometres from our borders and threatening Africa with hunger, the question was why the African continent, which has the largest quantity of fresh water in the world, The largest area of arable land, can’t feed his children? Why is it that every time there is a crisis in the world, we are threatened with famine? This question had to be answered to reflect the reality that threatens us. That’s why we’ve tried to frame the debate and see the mechanisms by which we can solve this type of problem. We also wanted to break with a certain idea that we have when talking about Africa’s past, change the victimary discourse and show Africa’s contribution to other people. Look at the capoeira dance in Brazil, a martial art developed by African slaves to defend themselves, it is a brilliance of African genius. We wanted to show that instead of always talking about our suffering, the pain we have suffered. It is good to remember what is rooted in our history and in our past, but Africa is not just that, Africa is inventive genius, it is all we have been able to develop despite slavery. We wanted to erase our African identity by giving us other names in new lands that are not our lands and even on the religious level. Everywhere, Africans have stood on their feet thanks to their power, the power of our spirituality, but also of our culture, and that’s why, I told the Ambassadors who were present today, because we carry the DNA of a common ancestor who is African, So in a certain sense the whole world is African and so it was necessary to say it, to proclaim it, but also to see how to get out of the victimary position.
Ze-Africanews: During 3 days we saw a parade of scientists and intellectuals through panels of reflections on the economic development of Africa, including the economic independence of the continent, were the conclusions adopted?
Souleymane Jules Diop: There were also debates about African cultural heritage, including African sites that are part of the World Heritage. There have been very strong positions on the need for Africa to position itself clearly on a return of these goods. Senegal received the sand of El Hadji Omar. Recently Benin received the remains of the king. All this is entering a new era, a new reconstruction of our past and present identity because we have been for a while having created and pasted identities. In the same way, with the Ambassadors, we wanted to reflect on our present by drawing inspiration from our past. It was the philosopher Bergson who said that the present was a bridge between the past and the future. That’s what we meant in a way. We also wanted testimonies from Africans from the diaspora who also did something. Africa has brilliantly participated since the time of the Malian universities of Timbuktu, in the scientific development of the world on astrology, but today in all fields of mathematics and other. There are young Africans who shine. And all this allowed us once again to realize the need for a new paradigmatic anchorage, not on the basis of the paradigms that Westerners wanted to stick to us. For example, to say that Africans do not have history. When you go to the Universities of Toronto, there is a work of Realignment, of reconstitution of our African identity that has been done, and all this we will obviously draw conclusions that will reinforce what we have done for 3 years during the 211st session of the Executive Board of Unesco by presenting a document that was adopted around the priorities. This is obviously all going to feed the reflection on our priorities in terms of culture, in terms of heritage, in terms of simulation, but also to have a more enlightened view on the continent’s future.
Ze-Africanews: Do you have a global message to send?
Souleymane Jules Diop: Show others that Africa, contrary to a certain conception, is not a static continent. It is a dynamic continent that is moving at its own pace and still moving forward, and since we talked about self-sufficiency and resilience, we wanted to show that the initiative of Africans, especially African women, shows that there is a transformative effort. For several decades, Africa has had the raw materials that Westerners process and resell to us our own products. You saw that chocolate is now made in Côte d’Ivoire with cocoa beans and other products. We make beer, cream for the body and all that and we wanted to show it as well because as long as there is no processing, there is no added value and when there is no processing in reality. We are obliged to sell outside but at the price imposed by others. We are at home, we are transforming, we are changing the facts of the problem a little, we are bringing more money into our country, and we are exporting less and that partly solves the unemployment problem. Because the reason why the industry is not developed here, the factories are not developed so there is unemployment.
Ze-Africanews: Finally, how do you look at the African continent?
Souleymane Jules Diop: Africa must be proud of itself. It must be rooted in its own values. All the countries that have done so have developed such as Japan or China now the Koreans who show that religion can adapt to development contrary to what is said. All these prejudices are broken. So to say that the African continent, in order to develop, must be rooted in its own values, we must affirm our identity proudly and this is what will allow us to regain our place in the world, to regain the African greatness past and future.