The Ambassador of Finland Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury was among participants at a symposium titled 'Enfranchising the African Diaspora: Comparing Notes across Sub-Saharan Africa', organized on 21-22 June 2017 by the Nordic Africa Institute of Uppsala, Sweden, and the University of Ibadan.
The symposium brought together a wide range of stakeholders, including researchers, academics, policymakers, and practitioners, to engage in diaspora issues, including voting and the rights of diaspora. The Nordic Africa institute was represented at the symposium by its Director Ms. Iina Soiri.
During the symposium, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Nordic Africa Institute and the Institute of African Studies of the University of Ibadan was signed by Director Iina Soiri and Vice-Chancellor Abel Idowu Olayinka of the University, in the presence of the Finnish Ambassador.
According to Director Soiri, her Institute is proud an honoured to partner with Ibadan University. She commends the University's Institute of African Studies as "one of the most reputed in its field on the African continent".
Ambassador Suomela-Chowdhury represented at the symposium all the Nordic Ambassadors based in Abuja. Her remarks at the opening ceremony were as follows:
Thank you for the opportunity to address this very distinguished audience. It is an honour to make remarks at Ibadan University which is the cradle of Nigerian academia. This is my second time at the University, and I hope there will be many more.
I am delighted about the partnership between the Nordic Africa Institute and the University of Ibadan. These are two high quality institutions whose cooperation certainly holds great potential. I take this opportunity to congratulate the Nordic Africa Institute and the Institute of African Studies of the University of Ibadan for the Memorandum of Understanding just concluded between them. It is a fantastic development.
The five Nordic countries - Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland - have cooperated closely for decades. The Nordic Africa Institute is one demonstration and fruit of that close relationship. I bring you personal greetings from the other Nordic Ambassadors based in Abuja. I have the honour and pleasure of representing them today.
I also bring you fresh greetings from the 16th annual Nordic and African Foreign Ministers' Meeting. Just a week and a half ago, Nigeria hosted the meeting in Abuja. The discussions focused on promoting sustainable development through trade and investment – an issue with many potential links with the diaspora, too.
Indeed, with so much focus now on migration, the diaspora is an ever more fascinating and relevant subject, and one that will continue to be so. People have always moved and always will. Finns have done so, too, when decades ago we moved to Sweden in search of work, and even earlier, when we went looking for greener pastures in America.
These people, whether they return to their country of origin or not, have something unique to offer. They have a distinct perspective. With their experience, skills, talents and networks, they can build bridges, and benefit both countries, including in the area of creating new businesses and jobs, and revitalizing economies. In my own work, I have already seen many times their valuable contributions to promoting relations between Finland and West Africa.
I commend the organizers for focusing today on this important and timely theme, and I wish everybody very fruitful discussions.
I thank you for your kind attention."