Social cohesion comes through narrowing the distance between black and white, closing the gap between rich and poor, and giving hope to the hopeless.

This is according to Yaa Ashantewaa Archer-Ngidi, Founder and Director of the Institute of Afrikology.

Archer-Ngidi was delivering the annual Diakonia Lecture under the theme Creating a socially cohesive society, on 29 September.

“I believe that South Africa and Africa must agree that the gap between rich and poor is unfair. Inequality is the basis of wars and suicide bombs across the globe. It is responsible for the continued marginalisation of the new members by the old members, the castigation of the new arrivals by old arrivals. It is unjust. It is unsustainable. It must end,” Archer-Ngidi said.

She spoke about the importance of the empowerment of women in achieving social cohesion.

“It comes through empowering women to rise to their highest. Empowering women is the surest means to peace and the upliftment of a nation. Socially cohesive countries provide economic opportunity for all and attract the best minds to run its institutions. If we can secure the majority in their homes, provide jobs and business opportunities to the majority and educate the masses, then most of our problems will be solved. Socially cohesive nations are happy nations and have diminishing levels of crime.”

Africans have always migrated and seeking to control their movement will not succeed, she said.

“Africans, on the continent and the Diaspora, must be allowed into every African country, of course following all legal routes. For the African Diaspora, there must be a right of return. Those that were stolen from Africa and sent to the Americas and Caribbean as slaves must be allowed to return home. It is a no-brainer. Barring or seeking to control African movement in Africa is unworkable in the face of economic integration led by the people themselves and only delayed by politics, power and patronage.

“South Africa’s internal cohesion is important, but it is unsustainable unless it is linked to Africa’s destiny. There must be regional economic cohesion, political alignment and free movement of Africans across borders,” she said.

Archer-Ngidi also spoke against xenophobia adding that disputes of whatever nature can be resolved through transparent dialogue.

“In truth xenophobia in South Africa is fuelled by ignorance as it is by sinister agendas. Xenophobia today sees minorities as enemy, the newly arrived, foreigners and those who line our streets with their aggressive commercial enterprises.

“Black people were so dehumanised by apartheid that they continue to eliminate each other at the slightest provocation today. What mindset says a business dispute over taxi routes is never resolved until blood flows through the streets?” she asked.