Since her establishment, the African Union aims at building a cohesive, integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by her citizens and representing a dynamic force in the world.
This will only be a reality if all Africans, including those in the “diaspora”, put at use their full potential and resources to the benefit of their continent and home countries.
Globally, Africans in the diaspora are spread out across the continents. In North America, there are 39 million from the African Diaspora; 113 million in Latin America; 13.6 million in the Caribbean; and 3.5 million in Europe, according to World Bank estimates.
The United Nations approved, back in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whose main objective is to eradicate poverty in the World in the next fifteen years.
Subsequently, the World leaders met and approved their implementation plan and financing mechanisms. The role of the diaspora has been identified as crucial in the achievement of these goals.
However, the concept of diaspora is not well understood, especially the African diaspora.
Many are those who believe that diaspora are those citizens who stay out of their country, especially in Europe and America, referred to as “developed countries”.
Such understanding is erroneous. Etymologically, the word diaspora” is derived from the Greek “dia” which means; “divided” or “separated”. As legacy of colonization, many Africans consider themselves members of diaspora, only when they stay in America and Europe.
Consequently; the role of diaspora in the socioeconomic development of Africa is not strategically well defined, though these migrants are potential crucial development agents in both their origin and host countries.
Since Paul Kagame became President of Rwanda in 2000, he gave special attention to the diaspora, which later led to the change in the name to “Rwandan Community Abroad”.
The rationale is that; citizens abroad are not separated from their home countries; and those who believe so are on the wrong side.
The outcome of this is that Rwandans feel more attached to motherland and feel inclined to contribute towards her development.
Unfortunately; this seems not being the case in many African countries; where there are signs of mistrust between home Governments and communities abroad.
And such a situation benefits not Africa, but her colonial masters and imperialists, who keep instilling the “divide and rule” agenda.
The role of the “diaspora” should not be analyzed under the single scope of remittances; it should be broadened.
Though financial contributions and economic transformation are critical to prosperity, branding the continent and selling the good image of your home country is also very important.
Diaspora should be perceived as development partners, wherever they are.
Looking at Africa as a whole, Diaspora are often times involved and associated with ad hoc projects, instead of being part and parcel of national strategies.
This has multiplier effects. Instead of considering themselves as development partners, diaspora consider themselves “donors” to their home countries.
Though not bad, such a mindset hinders the role of the diaspora in national development and prosperity.
Governments should adopt strategies and country-driven initiatives that are built on shared development objectives between them and the Diaspora, underlined by comprehensive policies, administrative structures and incentives to foster an enabling environment for mobilizing Diaspora resources around critical growth pillars.
Much as reforming the UN and African Union is needed, harnessing the diaspora dividend is critical for Africa’s prosperity.
The writer is a Political Analyst and a member of the PanAfrican Movement, Rwanda Chapter