Distinguished colleagues, members of AFSA, ladies and gentlemen: Allow me to take this opportunity to thank you most sincerely for showing your confidence in me by entrusting me with the onerous but honourable and noble task of taking the lead in strengthening our organization for the next three years and lifting it to higher levels. You have done this by unanimously electing me as your new Chairman. This evening’s peaceful electoral process has proved that AFSA has truly grown in stature and maturity, and is firmly in the hands of the members. The formidable team that you have elected this evening has a fundamental job at hand and I am confident that we shall not let you down.
The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) is a unique sort of organization, a continental network of networks. Because of the complexity of the African continent, the diversity in AFSA is abundantly noticeable. We are diverse in terms of geography, in terms of history, in terms of ethnicity, in terms of language, in terms of religion and in terms of gender. Our diversity should not be viewed in terms of differences. Of course, we may have differences of opinion on certain issues which in itself is desirable and inevitable. Our diversity should be interpreted as underscoring our strength: strength in diversity. We should always strive to concentrate on and maximize things that bring us together (i.e. our commonalities) but minimize and discourage those that highlight our differences. I do not want to pretend that differences in perspectives would not occasionally arise; it is just natural and healthy for these to arise freely without being suppressed. An indicator of the maturity of our organization and the vision of its leadership lies in the ability to identify the challenges related to our diversity and to confront these in an honest and transparent way with a view to mutually finding amicable strategies to enable us move forward together. It is only in solidarity that we shall realize the vision of AFSA in ensuring food sovereignty in Africa.
We should not lose sight of the fact that AFSA consists of different categories of members, the most notable being the ‘Core Members’ and the ‘Associate Members’. These categories are enshrined in our Constitution and must be respected at all times. Apart from the pecuniary contributions to the organization, members from both the core and associate groups are committed to the core values of AFSA and contribute ideas equally. However, the Associate Members are constitutionally excluded from participating in the voting process when Board members are being elected. We may in the future wish to find some innovative ways in which Associate Members may also, to some limited extent, contribute to the management of our organization. This can only be done in the context of our continued fidelity to the Constitution of AFSA, taking into consideration that a Constitution is a living document. Therefore, discussions along these lines may be undertaken within the next three years.
AFSA’s Secretariat has grown exponentially since the discussions in Techiman (in Ghana) where the current General Coordinator was identified and charged with the responsibility of nurturing the nascent organization. The role of the Board is not to micromanage the Secretariat but is a policy making organ of the organization. The new Board will continue with the ‘hands off’ policy of the outgoing Board in its relationship with the Secretariat in the day-to-day running of the organization’s affairs. The Board will, however, provide support and the requisite oversight to the Secretariat and to the general membership. The Board will deliberate on its own milestones to achieve every year during the next three years of its lifespan and have concrete outcomes to report to the General Assembly at the expiry of its tenure.
My acceptance speech would be incomplete without taking this opportunity to thank the outgoing Board under the able leadership of Ms. Mariann Bassey Oruvwuje for the splendid job that it accomplished during the last three years.
Lastly, let me welcome the new members of the Board to this challenging responsibility that AFSA members have bestowed on us. Let me assure the members that we are equal to the task and, as a team, we shall deliver!
Thank you once again and may God bless you all.
Chris Macoloo, Ph.D., FCCS
AFSA Board Chair