Serious engagement with the diaspora

Serious engagement with the diaspora
  • PublishedJanuary 15, 2019

With the African diaspora generating over $35bn of remittances annually, it is time to engage with them fully in the development of Africa and for their own enhanced emancipation. By Onyekachi Wambu 

Twenty years ago, the issue of diaspora and development barely registered on the political agenda. The diaspora moved up the agenda after 2002 when the World Bank and IMF published figures demonstrating that remittances from the diaspora far outstripped overseas development aid.

Globally, we now understand that the 250m migrants and diasporans around the world remit about $500bn, impacting on average 4.5 people in their country of heritage. Nevertheless, it was difficult, as recently as 10 years ago, trying to convince African policymakers that there was merit in creating structures to engage their diasporas for development, whether through investment or skills transfer.

In 2100, the world’s population will be 11.2bn. Just under half, 5.5bn, will be African.

Over the next 83 years, these new demographic realities will shape the challenges on the continent in a vast range of spheres, including the environment and climate change, education and jobs, urbanisation and housing, infrastructure, industrialisation and automation, to name but a few, as well as the governance and institutions needed to address this changed demographic reality. 

The 5.5bn figure will present challenges and opportunities for policy makers, business and development practitioners. The visions and programmes of national and regional governments; the AU’s 2063 Action Plan; and the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) already have agendas in place to address many of the central challenges, but these need to be animated and millions need to be mobilised and included to play their own role.

Take for instance the area of labour mobility.  Africa will provide the workforce of the world and half of its market. It is also likely to remain a net exporter of labour, in which case migration issues to Europe and elsewhere will continue to dominate and the African diaspora will remain an important political, social, cultural and economic force.

African descent will form world’s majority

Indeed, if we include those in the diaspora beyond Africa, in the projected African population, then a clear majority of the world’s population may well comprise people of African descent. 

Already diaspora remittances are currently over $35bn annually, and diaspora skills and knowledge transfer are at the cutting edge of many technological and other developments taking place on the continent.

All of these are likely to grow over time, presenting opportunities and an important role for organisations like AFFORD (the African Foundation for Development), especially in the areas of job creation, training and skills development, through targeted financial and intellectual investments.

Africa’s current population is 1.2bn, with over 20m coming onto the job market every year. By 2100, Africa will need to be find jobs for over 100m young people coming onto the job market annually. 

How will these numbers be educated, skilled and provided with employment or self-employment?  What is the role of the diaspora in meeting these challenges? 

As one of the leading diaspora organisations, AFFORD is perfectly placed to respond to turning challenges into opportunities along the migration and development nexus, demonstrating that the diaspora can contribute meaningfully to tackling arguably the most critical issue – the support (through direct investment, business development advice, etc) of the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which will generate the majority of the millions of jobs that are necessary. NA                                

Written By
Onyekachi Wambu

Onyekachi was educated at the University of Essex and completed his M.Phil in International Relations at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He worked extensively as a journalist and television documentary. He edited The Voice Newspaper at the end of the 1980s and has made documentaries and programmes for the BBC, Channel 4 and PBS.

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