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Diaspora and development: An introduction

Onyekachi Wambu

2013-07-16, Issue 639

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This Special Issue focuses on the role of the diaspora, especially the UK diaspora, in Africa’s development by beginning the process of opening up the themes and issues surrounding this important segment of the African people

The AU celebrates its Golden Jubilee at a time of unprecedented opportunity. Africa is changing at lightning speed. With an annual growth rate of over 5% in the past decade, the continent has six of the world's ten fastest growing economies. African citizens are enjoying greater freedoms and material prosperity. There is a new spring in their step - cultural pride and growing optimism, replacing the Afro-pessimism of a previous era.

But much remains to be done. Tony Elumelu, the leading Nigerian banker and now impact investor, noted that ‘nobody is going to develop Africa except us.’ The ‘us’ includes those on the continent, as well as those in the diaspora. This Special Issue focuses on the role of the diaspora, especially the UK diaspora, in Africa’s development.

It is estimated that 15 million people of African descent live in the European Union alone, with tens of millions more living in every region of the world. There are just under 40 million people of African heritage in Canada and the US; 113 million in Latin and South America; and 14 million in the Caribbean.

The AU has now officially recognised this global diaspora as Africa’s 6th region. African Union (AU) Executive Council defines the diaspora thus:

“The African Diaspora consists of peoples of African origin living outside the continent [of Africa], irrespective of their citizenship and nationality and who are willing to contribute to
the development of the Continent and the building of the African Union”.
The diaspora deploy their money, political capital and knowledge and skills to strengthen development in Africa. In 2012 over $50 billion was sent in remittances by diaspora, supporting investment, educational, health and social healthcare needs amongst vulnerable communities across the continent. Is this money having the impact it should be having on development? How can diaspora improve partnerships with Africans on the continent to increase transformation and development impact? How can such a diverse group of people be mobilised or institutionally anchored to national and pan-African structures? What best practices exist amongst diaspora networks and organisations working in Africa? What are the challenges faced by second, third or older settled generations? Which new policies in countries of origin, countries of settlement and amongst the multi-lateral agencies would improve the environment for diaspora development?

These questions are not exhaustive and to do them justice several thick volumes would need to be produced. However this ‘Diaspora and Development Special Issue will begin the process of opening up the themes and issues. The articles focus on the importance of the diaspora and how its contributions to development are helping to facilitate economic growth, social reform and poverty alleviation on the continent. Furthermore the articles seek to capture the benefits of diaspora development, how the diaspora’s work is fulfilling the targets set out by the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the diaspora’s impact in investment and job creation, the challenges facing diaspora engagement such as dual citizenship, and the diaspora as a cultural, social and political force.

Finally, it is also an opportune time for discussions regarding the incorporation of the diaspora into official international development strategies given the impending end to the MDGs in 2015, and the debates around what a post-2015 architecture should look like.

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ISSN 1753-6839 Pambazuka News English Edition

ISSN 1753-6847 Pambazuka News en Français

ISSN 1757-6504 Pambazuka News em Português

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