THE ROLE OF AFRICAN DIASPORA
By Paul Ndiho
The African Union defines its diaspora as people of African origin living outside the continent. The United States and other nations have created initiatives and opportunities to engage directly with the African Diaspora.
The term African diaspora is diverse, multi-faceted, multi-generational demographic irrespective of their citizenship and nationality.
The diaspora can be a powerful force for the development of Africa, especially through remittances. But perhaps more importantly, through the promotion of trade, investments, research, innovation — and knowledge and technology transfers.
Remittances to Sub-Saharan Africa grew almost 10 percent to $46 billion in 2018, according to the World Bank’s latest Migration and Development Brief.
Margaret Muwonge, a native of Uganda, mobilizes her community to fundraise and collectively send money back home to help communities.
“A lot of money is being remitted back home and that is done individually, and it has a lot of impacts because it’s even a factor in the national budget. But if all these resources are leveraged collectively, the effect is much significant. Because you’re not targeting an individual family, a brother or sister. You’re targeting a community, and the positive impact is that population will benefit.”
Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation after Nigeria, is arguably one of the fastest growing economies largely due to its diaspora and the countries new policies encouraging them to return home.
For example, this newly opened hotel is owned by an Ethiopian couple who migrated back from Washington D.C. It’s part of a growing series of businesses started by Ethiopians returning from the Diaspora to invest in their native land.
“We wanted to create something new here in Ethiopia that has never been seen before. One of the unique things about the Washington Hotel is our Presidential Penthouse Suite. It is unique because the construction was done in a very dynamic way that separates us from any other hotel here in Ethiopia.”
Business officials say the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, home to the Africa Union headquarters, has tripled its number of hotels in the last three years. New roads and buildings are now a regular part of the city’s landscape. The construction industry is being driven by the country’s growing economy and Ethiopians returning from abroad.
“The technology flow coming from abroad coming through the diaspora will be, in a human aspect, soft skill and also management aspect and also in a hardware aspect.”
Another area where the diaspora is shaping the narrative is the documentation of the African story. In the Gambia, the Fyen Network, a foundation run by a family of Gambian women in the diaspora, is promoting literacy and education back home. Anna Fye, her two sisters, and their mother, Lucy Fye, started Fyen in 2007 as a hobby, but it has grown into a powerful tool to influence young children and help them discover their heritage.
“Africans need to take over the narrative of telling the African story. We want to use the African experience, the African voice, the African perspective, to teach others, but also ourselves. So we can be proud to say here is a children’s series written by Africans for African children and of course, the rest of the world can also learn from it.”
As diaspora groups continue advocating for democracy and human rights across the continent -Africa’s most powerful resource is proving to be the caring attitude of its people.