By: Nchimunya Muvwende (Photo: ADN)
In a famous quote, an author penned down the words “No matter where you go, always remember the road that will lead you home.” There are many Africans that left their countries in search of green pastures in the diaspora but it seems that they have become so comfortable with developing the already advanced countries and do not seem to remember their roots. While foreign investors are rushing to invest in the opportunities present in Africa, very few foreign based Africans do the same but rather focus on helping family members through remittances that have no sustainable impact. This status quo is not helpful and there is a need to harness a working relationship between nations and their people that live abroad in order to have inclusive development.
Harnessing diaspora resources
Many African countries are highly indebted and much of this debt arises from the ambitious development projects that governments are undertaking to improve the livelihoods of their people. Most projects cost more money than countries can manage to mobilize domestically and so, the countries are forced to depend on external aid and loans that are sometimes tied to adverse conditions.
On the flip side, there are many diaspora based Africans who have raised enough resources which when invested back in their countries, the rising debt crises could be mitigated. To do this, there is a need to provide specific incentives for the foreign based Africans so as to attract their resources to be invested in their home countries. Doing so will come with many benefits such as reduced dependency on borrowing, money remaining within countries hence stabilizing exchange rates, employment creation, economic growth and basically improved wellbeing of the people. It should be noted that no one will prioritise the development of Africa except its people regardless of where they are based and so, measures need to be taken to engage the children of the African soil.
Nations need to appeal to their people to remember those they left back home and think of ways of improving their livelihoods. It goes without saying that it is important to look strategically, systematically and critically at the diaspora’s role in the African development matrix and engage the huge reservoir of human and financial capital found in the large African diaspora.
Investment not remittances
When you give a child fish, they would still come back for more but if you build them a fish pond, teach them how to earn an income, the dependence syndrome reduces. There are many Africans that are in the diaspora that earn decent incomes and have to always remit funds to their families back home. However, this has created a continued financial dependence that has not necessarily improved livelihoods as it is not a sustainable source of income for the people back home.
The World Bank statistics show that remittances from the diaspora are estimated at about $87 billion annually and these amounts actually exceed official development assistance to Africa. Why always beg for help when Africans in the diaspora have more resources? It is time that the many Africans domiciled across the world begin to think of how they can reinvest their incomes into building businesses that will benefit not only their families but their countries as a whole. When critically analyzing cost factors, it would be cheaper to set up a business in an African country than in western countries.
Download BAO E-MAGAZINE
This is because the cost of labor, availability of ready market and investment incentives are more pronounced in many African jurisdictions. It should be a source of concern that foreigners find it easier to invest in Africa than it is for the Africans who left the continent for greener pastures to think of taking back the resources to their roots. Imagine if every diaspora based African thought establishing at least one business in their home countries using mobilized resources and using the skills and knowledge gained, the development of Africa will be more pronounced. It is time to convert remittances into Foreign Direct Investments in order to grow African economies and deal with pressing challenges.
Most of the western countries have advanced skills and knowledge and attract the best minds around the world, inclusive of the many diaspora based Africans. There is a need to create effective diaspora networks that can help replicate, transfer and build the knowledge to actualize Africa’s potential. There is a need for building capacity in the management of businesses. Financial prudency, sourcing financing among other skills in the people in Africa and this is a role the African diaspora could take up when effectively engaged. In addition, they can help create opportunities for Africans to acquire skills and knowledge from the best schools and experts and use this to develop Africa. The networks could help create market linkages for the many products produced in their home countries.
The abundance of natural resources and wildlife make Africa a good and attractive tourist destination but the lack of effective advertisement and expensive costs have hindered reaping benefits. The African diaspora needs to be engaged more in marketing their home countries, and this could come at almost no cost because word of mouth advertisement is rated the best.
African Governments should not look at the African diaspora as deserters of their continent but rather as ambassadors that could be instrumental in dealing with the many challenges faced in their home countries. This calls for effective engagement with the African diaspora. In the same vein, the African diaspora should be reminded to remember the road that leads to their roots and that if they do not take part in uplifting the lives of their people, financial burdens will keep falling on them. Therefore, working on a win-win situation will be the best way to achieve a prosperous African continent.