Employment and Economic Development of African Canadians in London and Area – Report’s Summary
Written by Ayo Abiola~
ACFOLA organized a one-day conference to discuss issues on the employment and economic development of the African-Canadian communities in London and area. This second edition of the Moving Forward Conference was held exactly three years after the first conference that focused on issues of inclusion, engagement and integration of African-Canadians in London and area. To address the current theme, the conference focused on six sectors that contribute to improving the odds of African Canadians readily gaining employment, accessing social services and/or developing their own enterprises. These included:
- Self-Employment, Small Businesses and Cooperatives;
- Education, Literacy and Training;
- Employment and Employment Equity;
- Support for Families, Women and Children;
- Financial Literacy; and
- Health Awareness.
The Conference invited professionals, local and province-wide to speak to participants at six concurrent panels addressing each of the six sectors above. Each participant was able to attend at least two of the panel sessions both to listen and contribute. It is imperative to note that the conference was well attended by community members, policy-makers, service organizations, educators and professionals from a wide range of disciplines related to knowledge transfer and community development.
The keynote speaker, Dr. George Dei gave a rousing speech about the long history of African peoples in Canada and their achievements and contributions to Canadian society, as well as contemporary challenges for African Canadians. He concluded the talk with suggestions for a way forward which include developing a strong, vocal African presence through purposeful leadership; building a strong healthy, sustainable local African Community; identifying and building upon our cultural similarities, while accepting our differences; sharing experiences and integrating fully into the Canadian society. A thought provoking question asked by Dr. Dei was,
At what point does one move from being a Canadian immigrant to a Canadian and how do we value our “global citizenship”?
At the conference’s plenary, Dr. Neil Arya spoke about promotion of health and welllbeing in Africa and Canada and suggested that policy makers and communities would mutually benefit from formulating strategies for: integrating education in the broader context of sustainable development; scaling-up essential intervention methods that address social and community networks; developing mutual trust, sustainable integration, inclusion and engagement of immigrants; promoting and implementing policies that guarantee food security, disaster preparedness, and identifying risks associated with lack of housing for recent immigrants; and promoting equal opportunity to employment, health-care services and improved work conditions.
The conference ended with a dinner and dance, but not before Professor Anton Allahar spoke to the evening guests about the challenges and solutions for “Sustainable Human Development”.
This edition of the Moving Forward African Canadian Conference was sponsored through the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the London Community Foundation and the City of London. A&B Print Inc. and A Universal Limousine were two local African-owned businesses that also provided financial supports, in addition to Scotiabank.