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Africans in Diaspora Seek to be Included in the Continent’s Development Agenda

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 18 – Africans living in the diaspora have asked their governments to include them in the development agenda in the continent.

This was discussed at a meeting that took place in Nairobi this week attended by 150 Africans drawn from different countries in the continent-and outside the continent, with hundreds more following the proceedings virtually.

Africans living in the diaspora met in Nairobi, with hundreds following virtually, to discuss the continent’s development agenda and to recommend ways that African governments can include the diaspora in the continent’s development.

Speaking at the event, Devolution Cabinet Secretary, Eugene Wamalwa, commended the African Diaspora community for their resilient spirit at a time that most predicted diaspora remittances into the continent to decline. 

“If Africa is a resilient continent, then the diaspora community is the most resilient member of the family. Even during the darkest time (COVID-19), the diaspora never forgot their countrymen and sent money for development and personal use,” he said. 

Revolving around the theme of ‘Leveraging Diaspora Resources for Africa’s Economic Recovery Post-COVID”, the symposium had representation from different government agencies, development agencies and scholars in and out of the continent.

Data from the Central Bank of Kenya recorded that total inflows in the 12 months to September stood at $2,967 Million (Sh322.8 billion) compared to $2,786 (Sh303.1 billion) in the 12 months to September 2019. This was a record inflow; a staggering performance by a sector that most policy makers and analysts had predicted would decline.

The World Bank projected that remittance flows to low and middle-income countries were expected to drop by around 20 per cent to $445 billion (Sh47.6 trillion), from $554 billion (Sh59.2 trillion) in 2019. 

Kenyans living abroad have this year sent Sh329.5 billion in 12 months to October according to the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK).

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October remittances were recorded at $263.1 million (about Sh28.8 billion), an increase from the previous months $260.7 billion (Sh28.6 billion), as the diaspora community continued to play a critical role in cushioning the local economy and households from Covid-19 shocks.

Consistent Diaspora remittances to the continent amounted to $80 billion, of which $48billion were attributed to sub-Sub-Saharan Africa remittances for last year, according to the World Bank. 

Nigeria remains the largest recipient of remittances in sub-Saharan Africa and is the sixth-largest beneficiary among low-to middle-income countries, with an estimated $23.8 billion (Sh2.5 trillion) received in 2019.

This is an increase of more than half a billion dollars compared to 2018. Ghana and Kenya are ranked a distant second and third in the region, with $3.5 billion (Sh374 billion) and $2.8 billion (Sh299 billion) received, respectively. Over 70 per cent of the diaspora inflows are from North America and Europe. In June, about Sh30 billion came into Kenya.

A key area of discussion during the 1st Africa Diaspora Symposium (AfDS) – held in conjunction with the annual Kenya Diaspora Homecoming Convention- was the opportunities and challenges presented by the incoming Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) set for implementation in 2021. The meeting commended the 54 states that have signed the AfCFTA and the 28 that have ratified it.

They recognized the challenges ahead, notably that each signatory state must rapidly improve its business environment, develop its education and human capital, invest in supportive infrastructure, strengthen its institutions, and work in concert with its business associations to not only facilitate incoming investment and trade, but also open up to fraternal African businesses and investors. And that all states that have ratified the Treaty should work in concert to build, promote and inculcate in their political, social, and economic leadership, institutions, and opinion shapers a strong and enduring Pan-Africanism in letter and spirit.

 The meeting further noted that the opportunities presented by Pan-African markets were immense, and harnessing them would not only create employment, wealth, and socio-economic transformation for each participating country, but would also enable the engagement of African firms in global value chains and increase the share of African goods and services consumed by its 1.4 billion consumers. The meeting also resolved to make full use of the Prosper Africa program promoted by the United States to promote strong trade and investment ties between Africa and America, and in particular leverage trade and investment ties between diaspora and continental Africans.

The AfDS in its business session took note of the opportunities and challenges facing direct investment and trade between diaspora and continental businesses, and the lack of any progress on this front.  While there are substantial resources and programs available to diaspora businesses that may wish to invest in continental ones, there are limited opportunities and institutional pathways for investors and invests to meet, understand one another’s demands and needs, and engage in completed transactions.

The most important challenge is lack of sufficient information, knowledge, and intermediating institutions to enable the diaspora and continental businesses engage.

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Thus, the AfDA resolved to support practical pathways to enable successful engagement for purposes of investment and trade between the diaspora and continental entities (including Prosper Africa), and advocate for greater engagement between the United States Government and African governments to make the fullest use of the resources and opportunities presented to the business under Prosper Africa. 

 With regard to the AU Agenda 2063 and the work to mainstream the diaspora agenda into it, The 1st African Diaspora Symposium (AfDS) discussed the limitations of working with poor quality of information for diaspora mobilization.

The meeting recommended that all diaspora stakeholders commit resources to developing the information infrastructure to support their diaspora.

It was resolved that the Africa Diaspora Alliance (ADA) would seek out partnerships with organizations such as the IOM (International Organization for Migration), the African Institute of Remittances (AIR), international NGOs such as AFFORD and the financial industry players – both multilateral, like the AfDB, and of member states to develop research literature to provide more reliable sources of information on remittances.

The meeting further commended Nigeria and Ghana for leading the way in formally integrating their diaspora into their countries’ development agenda – Nigeria through issuance of the first successful diaspora bond in 2017, and Ghana through a series of official endorsements of the role of its diaspora in national development. 

The AfDS noted the varying levels of success attained by different members’ states in galvanizing their diaspora, and expanding their visibility on the African stage. To aid in the transfer of best practice, the meeting resolved to collect, compile and showcase success stories from different member states during the annual Africa Diaspora Symposium (AfDS)

On the question of Economic Emancipation in the wake of the Black lives Matter movement, the meeting resolved to encourage greater sensitivity in the communication of the role of African diaspora to contribute to Africa’s development. Despite the modest economic reach of the average African Americans, most appeals to the African diaspora to invest in Africa assume that all African Americans are wealthy.

The meeting resolved to champion a more nuanced outreach strategy to African Diasporas, to enable the African Diaspora Alliance to engage with historical diasporans as equal partners. The AfDS noted the centrality of meaningful engagement with global supply chains in protecting against economic subjugation. The meeting resolved to champion the participation of Africans in global trade as the foundation on which economic emancipation will be attained.   

Touching on the issue of education, it was resolved that there is need to deepen technology in Africa through policies that will create a vibrant ecosystem. The outcome of this  will improve efficiency in both public and private sectors, provide jobs , reduce poverty, promote entrepreneurship, support local content and create science , technology and knowledge hubs. There is also urgent need to revisit the educational systems  to make them more relevant to meet the challenges and opportunities in Ecosystem.

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The 2nd Africa Diaspora Symposium will take place in Lagos, Nigeria. 

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