Editor's Comment

Diaspora critical to Africa’s growth

WITH over one billion people and vast natural resources such as minerals, arable land and water, among others, it is undeniable that Africa has tremendous potential to enhance its social, political and economic development.
However, despite being endowed with such vast natural resources, Africa has over the years struggled to harness its potential economically.
Part of the reason is that, Africa has not fully realised and exploited the Diaspora’s potential in pushing its development agenda.
Africans who live overseas can play an influential role in growing regional economies and supporting positive social change throughout the continent by actively participating in the economic activities of their countries.
It is for this reason that we join Vice-President Inonge Wina in calling upon all Africans in other continents to invest back in their respective home countries and be part of Africa’s transformation.
This is because the duty to develop Africa lies squarely on Africans themselves and much more on those in the diaspora because of their exposure to developed countries.
It is time Africans who are based overseas demonstrated their patriotism to their home continent by making significant investments.
They are better placed to play a significant role in the development of Africa because of their knowledge and experience gained as academics, scholars, scientists, technologists, professionals and even businessmen abroad.
Some of them have lived in other lands for so many years as expatriates and can, therefore, effectively adopt foreign approaches and technologies to Africa’s context.
Acknowledging the link between Africa’s development and the diaspora, founder of The Silicon Valley African Film Festival Mr Chike Nwoffiah once said: “It has always been clear that the destiny of the continent, African, is intricately interwoven with the destiny of the Diaspora African.”
It is indisputable that Africa is in dire need of the diaspora’s remittances, investment and knowledge in its quest to develop.
Africans in the Diaspora should, therefore, rise to the challenge and invest in existing African companies as well as establish new ventures.
Research has shown that in some countries, remittances from the diaspora far exceed aid received, and that shows the potential that lies in the diaspora.
For instance, Nigerians in the Diaspora in 2012 alone remitted US$21 billion and currently diaspora remittances are second to oil in terms of forex income for the country. This is according to latest World Bank research.
Mrs Wina is indeed justified in saying that it is homegrown investments by Africans across borders that will bring sustainable socio-economic development.
While the diaspora investments have been mainly in form of remittances in the past, there is need for African governments to rethink how they can harness the talents and resources of Africans abroad.
African governments need to be proactive in identifying and facilitating the engagement of highly-skilled Africans in the Diaspora in national economic development projects.
As a step in that direction, in 2010, the Zambian government and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) conducted a survey that captured the diaspora’s views and aspirations.
The survey highlighted the diaspora’s potential to participate in national development, which was being hampered by the lack of government institutional capacity to effectively engage them.
Our government has further embarked on the process of formulating the diaspora policy document to clearly define the terms of engagement and collaboration between Government and Zambians living in the diaspora.
President Lungu also recently assented to the constitution permitting Zambians abroad to attain dual citizenship, which is a motivation for them to invest back home.
We implore other countries which are still lagging behind to be proactive and ensure that the investment potential in the diaspora is fully exploited for a prosperous Africa.

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