Diaspora contribution to achieving the SDGs

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    The role played by diaspora in the development, poverty reduction, reconstruction and growth of countries of origin has enabled tremendous change in local communities. Yet diaspora are side-lined development agents. Diaspora expertise and contributions must be better leveraged to deliver on the 2030 Agenda. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development have provided new opportunities for (African) diaspora involvement, following the partly missed targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that preceded them. The SDGs, particularly the targets – ensuring safe, orderly, and regular migration; limiting exploitation and abuse of migrants; reducing the costs of recruitment and remittances; and improving data – place diaspora engagement at the core of the development process. Indeed, while target 1 of the SDG is focused on ending poverty, one of the means to that end is the subject of diaspora remittances as suggested by the indicators proposed for assessing this target. Similarly, target 4 is focused on ensuring healthy lives and specifically increasing the proportion of diaspora with equal access to health services in the destination country. It a great article noteworthy that target 8a positions fair labour for diasporas as an equally important foundation for the sustainable development agenda through the creation of decent work opportunities. And target 12 stipulates improving data with a view to establishing diaspora networks to facilitate the circulation of knowledge, ideas and technology which is fundamental in capacity building. Paradoxically, while the diasporas are important actors in economic development, they are still mainly considered shortcuts to leveraging financing – especially remittances – channelling funds for sustained development in Africa – in a sub-optimal manner. This attitude underplays alternative platforms of innovative contributions of the diaspora. A parochial focus of such financial contributions poses risks of failure and ultimately jeopardises the 2030 Agenda. We posit, therefore, that the impact of diaspora on the 2030 Agenda should be multidimensional and multifaceted, requiring an in-depth consideration by African governments and other stakeholders in four areas:
    • diaspora remittances, trade and investment;
    • capacity building (transfer of skills, knowledge and technology);
    • advocacy and involvement in development policy making and implementation process; and
    • definition of migration policies.

    Remittances, trade and investment

    Diaspora remittances and financial contributions are well mobilised through various instruments including, but not limited to, bonds, securitised remittances, and special banking arrangements. The World Bank and other development partners have revealed that remittances by African diaspora surged by 3.4% to US$35.2 billion, in 2015. However, this amount doesn’t directly translate to development due to many challenges such as the very high costs involved in money transfer, the technical complexity and alternative innovative platforms – going beyond funds for the day-to-day needs of families. A larger, more consolidated option channelled towards productive investments fostering entrepreneurial rather than dependency culture is needed. Some of the potential challenges with these initiatives include navigating the technical complexity and innovative vehicles of mobilising diaspora remittances. While multilateral agencies (e.g. the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, etc.) may be best placed to provide direct advice on technical questions, we advocate that the expertise of the diaspora and African financial institutions like the African Institute for Remittances can be honed for better results. Furthermore, although remittances provide benefits at several levels, many diasporas have a preference for alternative forms of investment in their countries of origin – setting up businesses being only one of these. The involvement of diaspora in trade and investment provides the much needed boost for investor confidence in growing economies.

    Capacity building

    Capacity building is another area where technology and skills transfers and modern management practices can make a contribution. Examples abound where diaspora have galvanised public private partnerships (PPPs) in sectors where such expertise is not locally available. This conduit in knowledge and skills transfers has proved effective especially during the Ebola epidemic when UK-based Sierra Leonean health workers (through the organisation they established –TOSHPA – to support transfer of equipment, knowledge and skills) volunteered by working with public health England and the NHS to provide cultural awareness training for anyone travelling to Sierra Leone. Another example is BethAri Limited, a management consultancy with diaspora expertise working in partnership with the Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), on the training and skills development for pharmaceutical regulatory practices in Nigeria and West Africa. It is our view that the aforestated cases can be built upon in a more significant manner so as to make the SDG targets a reality by placing the diaspora engagement at the core of the development process - especially targets 1, 4, 8 on the one hand; as well as targets 12 and 13 on the other hand (citing the need to create a global enabling environment and catalyse long-term finance; and develop a new global partnership for inclusive development, respectively).

    Advocacy and development policy engagement

    The nation-building process also relies on social and political dialogue, advocacy and awareness, and stability for sustainable development. African governments have recognised the need to engage diaspora by providing an enabling environment for potential contributions of the latter. This includes creating economic and social linkages, accelerating structural reforms and providing incentives. It has also been established that country ownership of diaspora strategies and strong ties with the diaspora, underlined by a shared vision, helps commit the diaspora and government to act synergistically. A typical example of this exemplary vision of diaspora engagement by the Nigerian government was the establishment of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) worldwide, where office space is provided at embassies to facilitate such initiatives. Many other countries like Senegal, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, to mention but a few, have initiated framework to engage with the diaspora. For instance, every year, in the framework of the Rwandan Diaspora Policy, the Government of Rwanda organises “Rwanda Day”, an event that brings together Rwandan diaspora from around the world to engage them in the nation’s socio-economic transformation.


    Migration is often viewed negatively by home, transit, and destination countries: in Africa as a brain drain and in destination countries as a burden on available resources. This has resulted in the inadequate attention migration and migrants contribute to sustainable development – especially from the purview of international students. It is for this reason that the African Diaspora Network in Europe (ADNE) advocates for the voice of diaspora to be included in development policy planning both in Africa and in Europe. It is the opinion of ADNE that well managed migration policies would bring about an optimal use of diaspora contribution to development considering the huge demographics of migrants in the world. Examples of such policies include easier access to legal status in destination countries, enabling dual-citizenship (as some African countries discourage this), and reducing bureaucratic procedures and administrative hurdles, including improved capacity and efficiency of consular networks and support to mention a few. It is our submission that where these are holistically considered, it would improve the prospect of generating decent work opportunities for diaspora thus accelerating the whole sustainable development agenda.

    Diaspora as development partners

    We advocate that the African diaspora should be considered not just as sources of finance for development, but also as development partners. While the diaspora may have the capacity and patriotic mind-set to contribute to national development, concerted efforts must be made by all stakeholders to develop policy objectives that could facilitate diaspora mobilisation. However, capacity gaps still remain as far as the diaspora are concerned – poor policy choices, lack of clearly defined objectives, poor implementation plans, as well as weak and inaccurate data on the diaspora being just a few. Accurate data and statistics are important elements in developing a national diaspora engagement strategy and we at ADNE are poised to build an African Diaspora Skills Database (ADSD) in order to fully understand the socio-economic and demographic characteristics of the diaspora, their attitudes, and possible areas of interest for collaboration. This database would also promote the optimal use of African diaspora expertise in their home countries. About the author Dr. Chinedu Madichie is a Senior Adviser (Entrepreneurship & Private Sector) and Board Member of African Diaspora Network Europe (ADNE). He is also the current Chairperson of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe (NIDOE), Belgium-Luxembourg Chapter.
    This article was published in GREAT Insights Volume 5, Issue 5  (October/November 2016).
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