- Development - Diaspora
Africa: The overlooked role of the African Diaspora
Ethiopia and Ghana greatly benefit from diaspora networks
For many years, Africa’s growth and development has been bolstered by the African Diaspora, however the contributions of the Diaspora have often been overlooked, unaccredited and unappreciated by African and International institutions. The added value in terms of insights, knowledge of local conditions and networks, cultural experience, empathy and sensitiveness, intellectual capacities and skills that the African Diaspora gain and subsequently offer to the enrichment of Africa is relatively substantial, research has shown.
Today, African migrants are part of a large-scale, worldwide Diaspora or transnational community which is becoming one of the major global forces shaping the direction and trends in the twenty-first century. The African Diaspora estimated at ten million have often influenced western and eastern government policy-makers in their strategies and activities implemented towards Africa; from America, Europe and Asia, the African Diaspora through transnational networks build up social, economic and political bridges channeling wealth, information, innovative ideas, intellectual capacities, skills, and creative business practices from the West to Africa. Both individuals and groups within the African Diaspora promote overseas business enterprise with their African homelands. They undertake this activity by setting up their own enterprises in their respective countries or by collaborating with local businessmen.
Highly unnoticed is the impact of remittances transferred by African Diaspora to their continent of origin. These financial remittances contribute tangibly towards poverty alleviation, economic development, savings, mobilization, productive investments and emergency aid. During natural disasters or economic recessions, for example, contributions from African Diaspora effectively provide a form of insurance to millions across Africa, which serves to shore up economic stability in many poor African countries in the long-run. This ‘pro-poor financing’ however remains an under-appreciated flow of funds. Even the United Nations has yet to recognize the contribution of the Diaspora to the reduction of poverty in developing countries, in its Millennium Development Goals on reducing the number of poor people in the world by half, come 2015.
While most corrupt African leaders are acclaimed for embezzling public funds, and redirecting foreign government and non-governmental aids into their private accounts in western Banks and economies, the African Diaspora, since the mid-1990s have built a history of financial remittances to friends and relatives which has often served as a reliable source of stable income and lifeline for many of Africa’s poor. Financial remittances from the African Diaspora are fast and reach the poor directly; making it an effective means of relief and rehabilitation and provide benefits to many people at the base of the African social class.
The potential and the invaluable social capital of the African Diaspora need to be tapped as a development approach. Foreign governments, who proffer assistance to Africa, can effectively do so perhaps, by devising a regulatory system that makes the transfer of remittances easy, inexpensive, tax deductible and conducive to investment in Africa.
According to a research by Dr. A.A. Mohamoud of the African Diaspora center in the Netherlands: In the Netherlands, some of the African Diaspora have entered into collaboration with Dutch Businessmen and enterprises with the intention of setting up joint ventures in Africa. Other Diaspora plays a mediatory or intermediating role by linking Dutch companies with companies in their homelands. In doing so, they help facilitate the transfer of finance and technical know-how from Holland to local enterprises. This is of utmost importance because, with the shrinkage or collapse of the formal national economies in many African countries, most Africans now engage in small-scale informal trade for their livelihood. Informal trade is now, in fact, the biggest market economy in Africa currently generating more than 60% of domestic wealth.
African Diaspora plays an important role in promoting African exports overseas since many small and medium enterprises in Africa cannot afford to travel abroad in order to promote their products, find distributors and establish contacts with export marketing partners. The African Diaspora organizations can form a close working relationship with African institutions and programs, such as the African Union (AU), New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), African governments, regional bodies, civil society networks and academic institutions.
Many NGOS and charity organizations helping out in Africa have been engineered or facilitated by the Diaspora serving as valuable human agencies. “In a village in Northern Ghana called Larabanga, we’re helping to build a Solar Powered Borehole water pump system that will service a village of 5,000 inhabitants. A village that currently has no access to clean water. We will also be assisting the Larabanga based FechFound (community organization) to construct a tourism office and guest house to encourage more people to visit Larabanga’s 14th Century Mosque. We’ve also given scholarships to 3 university and college students and provided uniforms for 35 elementary students,” says Corrine O’Neill, Co-founder of a registered Canadian nonprofit organization called The Afri-Can Connection. Through O’Neil’s interaction with the African Diaspora, her organization creates partnerships between Canadians and Africans, and works to strengthen the educational systems in peri-urban communities in Ghana, West Africa, while offering community improvement projects, student scholarships and innovative ICT for development. Corrine O’Neil and the Afri-Can connection is one of many NGO’s influenced by the African Diaspora engineering direct and tangible development in Africa.
Synergy and progress
Reputable not-for-profit African Diaspora organizations like African Leadership and Progress Network (ALPN)- a network of African and non-African professionals who are strongly dedicated to utilizing innovative and entrepreneurial approaches for fostering rapid progress in Africa; Young Patriots of Africa (YPA)— a network of young Africans in America networking towards the welfare of Africa and Africans; Association for the Advancement of Africa (AAA)— a nonpartisan organization created to help first-generation Africans assimilate into American society while aiming at strengthening and enhancing the fundamental relationship between Africans of the Diaspora and Africa; and the Association for Higher Education and Development (AHEAD) a not-for-profit organization created to contribute toward the improvement of education in Ethiopia, etcetera, need to be accounted for in the measurement of African development.
Even though the African Diaspora operates at the precincts of their host society due to the weak social, economic and political position in which most migrants find themselves, their contributions towards Africa’s development has been tangible. Recognizing the influence of the African Diaspora requires a greater synergy between African Diaspora organizations through information sharing and joint activities with African governments. Although there are clear advantages in joining forces, with African governments, institutions and establishments towards growth and development, it is not yet clear how this still embryonic partnership can be given a concrete shape; including the most appropriate ways and strategies in which this proposed partnership can be shaped to initiate the appropriate policy designs and practical actions and operations.