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Africa speaks

The hidden worth of the global African diaspora

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Credit: Flickr, Cresi Africa, Creative Commons.

Diasporas are often treated as foreigners in their adopted homes and as traitors in their place of birth, despite often hidden cultural and economic contributions. Now is the time to overturn outdated perceptions, writes Behailu Shiferaw Mihirete, and for Africa to utilise its diaspora’s potential.

On 5 November 2018, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appointed Billene Seyoum as the Press Secretary of the PM’s Office. We all celebrated, because somehow there appeared a consensus on her merit. Two days later, somebody ‘disclosed’ on social media that she held a Canadian passport, and the tone changed completely. The debate escalated. It was as if the PM had let a stranger in to the annals of Ethiopia’s political secrets.

Diaspora-ness is a tricky state of being. In their adopted homes, diasporas are referred to as ‘immigrants’, a term that often elicits a sense of unwelcomeness. In their original homes they are thought of as ‘runaways’ who want the best of both worlds – the first to trace their roots when it’s convenient and exotic but also the first to pack and leave when the going gets tough.

But these same diasporas, by some miracle, are expected to make a contribution both in their adopted and original homes. Hypocrisy arises because no matter how much their adopted homes look down on them, for instance, they do not waive their taxes. And even when they are referred to as ’them’ in the third person, the original homes do not refuse their remittances. By their adopted and original ‘homes’ alike, diasporas are treated as resources that should be carefully tapped rather than embraced.

They are resources, of course. Remittance flows to many countries in the global South are larger than the official development assistance received from the West and more stable than private capital flows. And in some countries, even the ones that have respectable economies, the contribution of remittances to GDP is growing. During the period from 2004 to 2017, it grew from 0.93% to 7.47% in Ghana, from 12.31% to 18.70% in Liberia, from 2.59% to 5.85% in Nigeria, from 7.88% to 13.67% in Senegal and in Egypt from 4.24% to 10.06%.

In most African countries, the diaspora’s economic contribution is rarely spoken of openly, because most leaders do not want to concede on them financial dependence. Many governments actually either underreport the contribution of the remittances to GDP or ‘fail’ to report it for fear of the figure empowering diasporas to influence local politics. Even in countries such as Somalia, where a quarter of GDP comes from remittances, this barely figures in any reports.

But while diasporas may be resources, it is problematic to look at them as just that – resources – and nothing more. Why do we boil down their worth to the few hundred dollars they send to their families every month? They are and they can be so much more, especially when diasporas have achieved great things for the human race. Why can’t their potential gained from exposure, experiences and education overseas be brought back home encouragingly and be deployed for the betterment of their homelands, so that the next generation of Africans and the generations after them will not have to leave home to find better education elsewhere?

Coming from Ethiopia, I can speak of so many Ethiopians who have influenced the world beyond their adopted or original borders. I can speak of the late Ethiopian space scientist, Kitaw Ejigu, who was NASA’s Chief of Spacecraft and Satellite Systems. I can speak of the Ethiopian agricultural scientist at Purdue University, Gebisa Ejeta, who developed Africa’s first commercial hybrid variety of sorghum tolerant to drought and parasitic weed. I can speak of Noah Samara, who founded the world’s first satellite radio network which aims to reach and empower the entire global South with educational and informational content. I can speak of Professor Tilahun Yilma of the University of California, who developed a genetically-engineered vaccine for the fatal cattle disease rinderpest, and who invented the inexpensive rapid testing kit for the same disease. I can go on and on, and I am sure each African national can name similarly dazzling diasporas originating from their respective countries.

Why, then, do we still measure our diaspora’s worth by their hand downs when it is their brains that could create infinitely more value back home? Is it the case of the prophet being ‘not accepted in his hometown’? To me, the diaspora might just be the card Africa has hidden under her sleeve for far too long.

CNN once called the African diaspora the continent’s ‘secret weapon’ and this, I think, is not hyperbole. The African Union Commission defines the African diaspora as ‘peoples of African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality … who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union’. The Commission considers the diaspora the continent’s ‘sixth region’ after the East, West, North, Central region and South.

That inclusive definition and characterisation of the African diaspora, estimated at about 170 million, as another organ of the continent’s body is a good beginning to recognising and unleashing their full potential. Second-guessing the disapora’s loyalty to the motherland, as we did of Billene Seyoum in Ethiopia, is no means to win their hearts back home.

Behailu Shiferaw Mihirete (@behailus) is a former journalist and communication specialist from Ethiopia. Currently, he studies Politics and Communication at LSE’s Department of Media and Communication. Behailu is the runner-up of the LSE Africa Summit blog competition 2019.

 

 

Africa speaks

Unstoppable Africa 2023: Shaping a Future of Prosperity and Innovation

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Unstoppable Africa 2023 has concluded, leaving a profound mark on the African continent. The two-day Global Africa Business Initiative (GABI) event aims to boost Africa’s standing in the global economy and establish the continent as the foremost destination for business, trade, and investment. This transformative gathering on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly has not only chartered the course for economic growth but has also solidified GABI’s pivotal role as a catalyst for change and progress.

On the second day of the event, Caroline Wanga, CEO of Essence Ventures, emphasized the importance of authentically portraying African narratives. She highlighted that the continent’s rich heritage has traditionally been expressed through its unique storytelling methods. Wanga stated, “In discussing Africa, it’s vital to engage in genuine dialogue. We’ve celebrated our heritage through our distinct method of storytelling, which the world is longing for now more than ever. As the overseer of Essence Ventures and other platforms, I am committed to ensuring our tales are told from a position of strength and authenticity.”

The final day of the Unstoppable Africa 2023 featured a chorus of leading private sector voices. Notably, leaders from the business and media world such as Jeff Wong, EY Global Chief Innovation Officer; Niraj Varia, CEO of iProcure Ventures; Lakeshia Ford, Founder of Ford Communications; Claudia Kwarteng–Lumor, Founder of Kollage Media, producers of GLITZ AFRICA Magazine and Somachi Chris-Asoluka, CEO of The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF). 

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Complementing these luminaries were esteemed figures from government and international organizations, including President Masisi, H.E. Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Adebayo Olawale Edun, Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy for Nigeria, Joy Basu, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs at the US Department of State.

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Africa speaks

Unstoppable Africa: Igniting Transformation and Bold Collaborations

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Unstoppable Africa Conference: Dr. Akinwuni Adesina and H.E. William Ruto (Image: Supplied)

Leaders from global business, investment, government, sports, and the arts gathered in New York on Thursday, 21st September to mark the commencement of “Unstoppable Africa”. The event by the Global Africa Business Initiative (GABI) seeks to elevate Africa’s prominence in the global economy and position the continent as the premier destination for business, trade, and investment.

The two-day event is co-convened by the United Nations Deputy Secretary General, Amina J. Mohamed and the Chairperson of the African Union H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. GABI, coordinated by the UN Global Compact, serves as a pivotal forum for Heads of State and Government, CEOs, investors, policymakers, industry experts, and U.N. leaders to discuss and strategize the way forward for Africa’s dynamic business landscape. “Unstoppable Africa” is a powerful affirmation of GABI’s unwavering commitment to redefining Africa’s economic narrative.

On day one, the flagship event attracted an impressive array of speakers and participants, including the Presidents of Ghana, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Kenya, H.E. William Samoe Ruto, Senegal, H.E Macky Sall Poland H.E Andrzej Duda and H.E Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados. In addition to government ministers, “Unstoppable Africa” welcomed a who’s who of renowned business titans such as Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese-British businessman and philanthropist, Phumzile Langeni, Deputy Chairman of Imperial Logistics; Non-Executive Director of DP World Group, James Manyika, Senior Vice-President of Research, Technology and Society at Google-Alphabet, and Brad Smith, President of Microsoft among others. Senegalese artist Baaba Maal set the tone for the event with a captivating performance calling for peace and prosperity in Africa while actor Arsema Thomas engaged in an insightful interview conducted by the event’s host Folly Bah Thibault from Al Jazeera English.

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UN Secretary-General António Guterres opened the two-day forum making a compelling call for the “delivery of justice” – a theme central to the continent’s sustainable development. The UN Secretary-General stated that “justice means reforming outdated, unfair and dysfunctional global financial systems and ensuring African representation at every multilateral table”.

H.E. Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados emphasized the difference between ambition and meaningful action, in the context of Africa. Recognizing the emerging unity and collaborative efforts across the continent, she highlighted the imperative for accelerated progress in Africa. Her message underscored the urgency for nations to move from plans to concrete actions that catalyze transformative change on the continent.

During a major event announcement, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), announced a transformative partnership with Google, creating a Centre of Excellence for coding in Africa.

Other announcements on the day included The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) commitment to positioning the country high-up in the batteries and electric vehicles value chains, unveiling a new 1,000-hectare space in Kolwezi, with special economic zone status. DRC’s Minister of Industry, H.E. Julien Paluku, appealed to global investors to join these initiatives in addressing climate change while advancing economic growth. the launch of Ghana’s Energy Blue Zone Initiative, heralding a major stride in the country’s energy transition and investment plans.

The “Unstoppable Africa” event promises to continue its momentum into the second day, where further thought-provoking discussions, innovative solutions, and collaborative endeavors are set to shape Africa’s role in the global economy. Leaders from various sectors, including business, government, and civil society, will come together to exchange ideas, forge partnerships, and chart a course toward a more prosperous and sustainable future for Africa and the world.

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Africa speaks

Nigerian-Born Ayomide Idogun On Creating Impact

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Ayomide Idogun is the co-founder at the New African Movement, an initiative aimed at ensuring Africa is conducive for Africans. Ayomide is a development strategist, policy analyst, and military historian with a major flair for transformative change through strategic thought, leadership, and empowerment.

Recently, he had the opportunity to be a delegate at the Arab Youth International Model United Nations Conference, now known as the Best Diplomats Conference, held in Dubai. Beyond the piquancy that came with meeting over 150 people from about 80 countries, and the experience of learning different cultures, the delegates were largely charged with proffering solutions to solving the global food crisis.  Ayomide represented the great people of Guatemala, who sadly are no strangers to this phenomenon, with 4.6 million people at the least, facing the hunger crisis, and suffering hugely from food insecurity.

This led him to come up with prospective solutions, to ensure farmer empowerment, and the mitigation of factors hindering food supply minimized to the barest minimum, so as to ensure Guatemala does not just become self-sustaining, but grows to the point of exporting food produce to other Nations. His efforts did not go unrewarded as he bagged the Outstanding Diplomat Award, in recognition of his outstanding negotiation, leadership, and overall performance during the course of the conference.

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He is a trainer and speaker with core area in leadership, capacity building and development. Some of his engagements amongst others, includes, training members of the African community in the United Arab Emirates, on capacity building and maximizing potentials, to ensure their time and resources are utilized to maximal effect. And at the maiden edition of DisruptHR Lagos, organized by OutsideinHR, where he spoke on the role COVID-19 played on priorities for humanity, and the ever-changing landscape of work.

Ayomide Idogun holds a degree in Policy and Strategic Studies from Covenant University, a second degree in History and Strategic Studies from the University of Lagos, and he is currently enrolled in the School of Politics, Policy and Governance, where he is undergoing the Public Leadership and Policy Programme.

 

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