Each year AWEPA calls upon its Sections and members to start an initiative around the global celebration of Africa Day on May 25th, a day which has been retained as a celebration of African unity. This year, AWEPA focused on the central theme of “youth” since in a context of African demographic trends its creates major challenges for young people in terms of migration, security and employment.
This year, AWEPA decided to highlight the event organized by its Latvian Section.
In light of the central theme of youth, the Latvian Section of AWEPA found it to be a timely opportunity to hold a dynamic discussion in Parliament with African students in Latvia. Students from six African countries held presentations to Members of Parliament, representatives of the Foreign Ministry of Latvia and peers from the Riga Technical University. The topics covered in the presentations ranged from nature and tourist attractions in the concerned countries to the potential of energy and business sectors, attracting wide interest of the public. The event was broadcasted in the early evening news of the national television.
Ambassador H.E. Margers Krams (Foreign Ministry of Latvia, Director-General of Bilateral Relations Directorate) reiterated the importance Latvia holds toward expanding contacts and exploring opportunities that stimulate closer cooperation between African countries and Latvia which could benefit future development for both sides. He also informed students about the planned activities this year by the Ministry.
Furthermore, Mr. Igors Tipans (Riga Technical University, Deputy Rector for International Academic Cooperation and Studies) expressed his hope that the time spent and connections made while studying in Latvia will inspire the students to establish more business ties between Latvia and the African countries, and will inspire more young Africans to come and receive the high-level education that Latvian universities can provide. The Riga Technical University is participating in the Erasmus+ (student mobility) program, which has been expanded, to cover also North African countries.
During the meeting the African students also informed the Latvian parliamentarians of some of the difficulties they faced when studying in Latvia, the most important ones being home-sickness and the language barrier. They suggested to the government to further expand Latvian language learning programs for English and French speakers.
The students also introduced the Members of Parliament to other aspects of Africa. For example the wide variety of African food which was presented in pictures, but they also cooked some food samples. Some of the national dances were shown after the official part of the discussion was over.
Finally, after the event, the students visited the Parliament building in a guided tour.
Photos by Mr. Reinis Inkens, Administration of the Saeima