Serious engagement with the diaspora.

Author:Wambu, Onyekachi
Position:BACK TO THE FUTURE - African diaspora in the context of economic development - Column

With the African diaspora generating over $35bn of remittances annually, it is time to engage with them fully in the development of Africa and for their own enhanced emancipation.

Twenty years ago, the issue of diaspora and development barely registered on the political agenda. The diaspora moved up the agenda after 2002 when the World Bank and IMF published figures demonstrating that remittances from the diaspora far outstripped overseas development aid.

Globally, we now understand that the 250m migrants and diasporans around the world remit about $500bn, impacting on average 4.5 people in their country of heritage. Nevertheless, it was difficult, as recently as 10 years ago, trying to convince African policymakers that there was merit in creating structures to engage their diasporas for development, whether through investment or skills transfer.

In 2100, the world's population will be 11.2bn. Just under half, 5.5bn, will be African. Over the next 83 years, these new demographic realities will shape the challenges on the continent in a vast range of spheres, including the environment and climate change, education and jobs, urbanisation and housing, infrastructure, industrialisation and automation, to name but a few, as well as the governance and institutions needed to address this changed demographic reality.

The 5.5bn figure will present challenges and opportunities for policy makers, business and development practitioners. The visions and programmes of national and regional governments; the All's 2063 Action Plan; and the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) already have agendas in place to address many of the central challenges, but these need to be animated and millions need to be mobilised and included to play their own role.

Take for instance the area of labour mobility. Africa will provide the workforce of the world and half of its market. It is also likely to remain a net exporter of labour, in which case migration issues to Europe and elsewhere will continue to dominate and the...

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