Over centuries, Africans have massively scattered all around the world and settled there for years. It wasn’t their intentional decisions in early moments but it turned out to be their own decisions as years wrapped on afterwards.
Whichever way, it all resulted in extensive number of people with African origins living in all continents, from all corners of the world, creating a huge African diaspora, which now plays a recognizable role in the development of the whole continent.
African diaspora is defined by African Union as “Peoples of African Origin living outside the continent, 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.”
Thus saying, African diaspora can be regarded into two different dimensions. First, there is a generation of African descents who were taken abroad for slavery without their consents. Such unhuman activities revamped the production of their owners and forged more landlords and the then-business communities to come in Africa searching for more strong men to work in their huge fields. Africans would openly be traded by their chiefs and left their families behind to work in other continents, notably America and later Europe. This whole process of trading Africans, which spread widely from 16th to 19th centuries, was known Transatlantic Slave Trade.
Africans who were taken away couldn’t come back, their dreams were to simply survive harsh conditions they lived in on a daily basis. Towards the end of trade, they got some freedom and started to marry each other. They later developed communities in their respective regions and so their new-born babies were official nationals of their host countries. As years went on, they continued to unlarge and divert their original cultures in the wake of integrating themselves into new communities and cultures. They then become a huge community with as much right as the people of origin.
The second form of African diaspora is the African-born people who migrate in other continents for various reasons. It can be for education, healthy, job, searching for better life and a wide range of other reasons. This modern generation of African immigrants is different from those Africans who were taken in other continents through Transatlantic Slave Trade.
For instance, United States of America (USA), the second country with most African descents population, has more than 46 million of people originated from Africa. However, it only has 2.1 million African diasporas who were actually born in Africa and moved in America thereafter. Brazil is the first country with most African-origins, more than 55 million; a fifth of its whole population.
Most of the African-born immigrants to America are from war zone areas like Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Ethiopia, which is recovering from various tragedies that have dampened its peace for years. The US hosts a lot of migrants of that kind because of its Refugee Act of 1980 which permits people from danger zones to immigrate easily to US, and so it becomes quite easily for people in these countries to find asylum in US.
Therefore, African diaspora, viewed in those two dimensions, is estimated by World bank to be around 140 million diasporas. That’s around 14% of African population. It is such a huge number of people that they can play a sizeable role in the overall development of their original continent.
HOW DO AFRICAN DIASPORA FAIR IN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT JOURNEY?
For starters, African development isn’t for doubt any longer. It’s general economy growth is 6% annually and while nearly half of all African countries are classified in under-developed category, it is expected to change by 2040 when all African countries will be middle income economies.
This development journey takes every inch of work to be possible and when it comes to future ambitions, Africa needs more resources to set up good foundations which will enable the continent to build these high targeted development goals. Currently, Africa amass a huge sum of money from abroad in form of loans and aids to build its economic muscles but that’s not the end of the story. There is actually another secret weapon which makes Africa move forward towards its dreams, and that weapon is its ‘DIASPORA.’
The diaspora portrays its valuable roles in different forms.
SUPPORTING DEVELOPMENT THORUGH REMITTANCE
When African leaves to other continents, there is a common joke usually whispered to his or her ears on the last hug, “Please send us dollars.” Whether this is really meant or not, the truth is that it finally prevails into reality. African diasporas do send a huge amount of money in Africa; the money which is typically important in supporting African development.
It is perceived that Africans in diaspora send a roughly $40 billion in Africa annually. This amount is almost 2.9% of all African GDP. It is also close to 60% of all aids received by Africa from foreign states and institutions annually. Nigeria, the second biggest economy and the most populated country in Africa, amasses a stunning sum of $22 billion alone, a fact which can be proven by a huge Nigerian population in diaspora.
Moreover, Liberia remittance from its diaspora accounts to 25% of its overall GDP. That sounds heavily how important is diaspora to Africa.
Most of these remittances are sent to families, for which they use for education, renting, investment and solving other surging problems which can be harmful if not handled earlier.
Other form in which African diaspora express their support to African development is through partnering organizations and NGOs which deal with notorious issues. For instance, initiatives like ‘Villages in Action’, Shea Yleen, Sierra Visions, Face Africa and Akili Dada, just to mention a few, have evolved the quality of life in Africa and even got international recognition and attention. There have been so many other initiatives of African diasporas which have won different prizes because of their unimaginable roles in improving life in Africa.
SUPPORTING HUMANITARIAN EMERGENCIES
More often, emergencies are so difficult to handle. That’s because of their usual costly amount to repair the damages. In these cases, African diaspora behaves normally so helpful.
The case of famine which starved Somalia in 2011 can be a good example to demonstrate such fact. The famine nearly reached every country’s inch and even stretched to neighboring countries. This time, Somalis in diaspora unfolded their arms and collected a massive $1 billion to help people in the country. Such help significantly depleted intended consequences and allowed Somalis to pass through these trial moments unscratched.
SPREADING AFRICAN CULTURE
Africans in their respective host countries, try hard to demonstrate African culture. Most of Europeans, Asians and Americans who have never came to Africa know African culture through Africa’s diaspora. It is normal for Africa’s diaspora to organize meetings, and feast among themselves in which they generally invite African musicians and eat African food while wearing African clothes.
For instance, most of African musicians have gone out of Africa invited by their fellows in diaspora. ITORERO Inkera and Intore Masamba are among the few whose music rely on culture and who have multiple times went to sing in Rwandan diaspora meetings-reminding nationals of their traditions and culture while also spreading them to new people who weren’t familiar with it before.
Also, it is a common fact that you can have easily find restaurant and coffee shops which absolutely deal with African products, some of them even having boomed so widely in US particularly.
DIASPORA AND EDUCATION
One of the reasons we have a huge number of diaspora is education. Most of educated African diaspora who are attending their education abroad fail to return back to their respective countries because of lack of opportunities. So they choose to stay where they got their degrees from and focus on building carriers there. There are nearly 400,000 African born students attending schools in different countries around the World.
It is thought that almost a half of African students who went to pursue higher education abroad mostly stay in their host countries. That’s because most developed countries which host a lot of African students like France, US and UK-with the exception of China-do not restrict students to come back to their original countries but instead lengthening their VISAS to allow them to stay longer. The students also hope to get better payments abroad and so such duality makes their choices to stay a lot easier to decide. The result is commonly known as brain-drain, a scenario in which educated population migrate from poor countries and join richer countries in search of good life.
CARNEGIE AFRICAN DIASPORA FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM (CADFP)
After reviewing this brain-drain and its impacts on African development, Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program (CADFP) has initiated to reverse the effects of such situation by bringing back some of the African diaspora to help universities in Africa.
The organization was launched in 2013 and focus to bring back 1,000 African descendants in the next decade from its launch.
During its first two years, it has managed to attract 110 African-born academicians, back in Africa to help African universities in three areas, curriculum development, research methods, and graduate students teaching and mentoring. The academicians spend 14 to 90 days in Africa working with host universities and offering their expertise and deeper insights which can be helpful even after their departures.
The survey done about the productivity of this program indicated that 86% of academicians have established formal agreements with universities which can lead to continuation of their partnership afterwards. 81% of the host universities have cited their pleasure to the program and wish it to continue.
The program is operating in six countries, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.
The program has been adapted by other organization like The Stavros Niarchos Foundation which granted $1.25 million to launch The Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program. These are good signs of how these fellowships are turning out to be crucial in terms of linking African-born academicians based outside the continent with African universities which desperately need more experience and expertizes.
Rwanda, like many other African countries, benefits remittances from its diaspora. As for 2017, Rwanda earned $181.9 million, an increase of 17% compared to $155.4 earned in 2016.
The increase was attributed to the rise of technology which have facilitated the process of sending money cheaply and effectively. The technology like Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and Money Transfer Operators (MTOs) have reduced transaction costs and allowed the process to take short time.
The liveliness of global economy also sparked the willingness of diaspora to release their wealthy in comfort that their life will not be affected negatively.
CHALLENGES FOR REMITTANCES
The foremost challenge for African diaspora is the cost transferring money to Africa. It takes around 12% of the total amount transferred while world’s general cost stands at 7%. Thus makes Africa the costliest continent in terms of transferring money despite efforts invested to tackle the issue.
Rwanda, on its hand, has been doing pretty well in order to reduce this price though there is still room for improvement. It now stands at 15% from 19% in the past few years. It is a good step but not merely enough.
Another issue is for African with no identifications. This group of people will have to find other ways to send money because they will not be served by formal companies. So they will usually use illegal ways which risk even to vanish their money mysteriously. The advice is for them to look for identifications but when you have entered in a country without formal permission, it is hard to declare yourself to the officials.
The World bank approximates that informal transactions measures almost more than 50% of its estimated value.
The role of African diaspora is so vast. African diaspora is referred as sixth region consisting African Union while others refer to it as 56 country of Africa. There are references to mention the hugely importance of African diaspora to Africans living in the continent. May what they are striving for happen once.
The Express News