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To do or not to do: Diaspora as development agents

5 August 2021


We hear from Onyekachi Wambu, Executive Director of AFFORD, on why we must move beyond data gathering to deliver effective action and how our latest policy report can be used as a roadmap for change.

The anecdotal understanding of diaspora contributions underwent a dramatic transformation following the publication of IMF and World Bank data on remittances in the early part of this century. AFFORD, through its own action research and policy agenda, further improved understanding on diaspora as development agents: especially the impact on investment and the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector from these remittances; and also, on skills sharing, working with VSO to test a DFID-funded diaspora volunteering initiative through which the organisations involved we were able to recruit 600 diaspora to support a range of activities, including specifically health related programmes.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) commissioned mapping studies which followed, of Sierra Leone and Lesotho health care professionals, identifed the structures and resources that would enable them to contribute more both to the NHS and to their countries of origin. During the pandemic we have seen the critical dual role diaspora continue to play, here and in their countries of heritage.

This latest report by THET is strongly welcomed, reaffirming much of the testimony of the earlier studies on diaspora. AFFORD is however excited by the strong action focused conclusion and recommendations driven by the 3 E’s of enable, engage, empower.

These recommendations reinforce our belief that we should be moving beyond data gathering mode to what AFFORD’s former chair, Prof. Gibril Faal, defined as a ‘practice-based mode’. He noted in relation to the Global Compact on Migration:

‘The factors that affect migration are complex, but the choices to be made about the Global Compact on Migration are not complicated: focus on effective action or persist in…rhetoric and diplomatic double-talk. To do, or not to do, that is the only question.’[1]

An agreement-Implementation matrix and practice-based approaches should emerge from the recommendations made here, where further detailed data can be generated through actual piloting or implementation of projects, through which we understand opportunities and challenges. This is particularly urgent given Covid-19 and the renewed focus on recruiting health professionals from Africa and the global south.

[1] Faal, G – Overprincipled and Underperforming: Why We Need a Practice-based Global Compact on Migration – Gibril Faal | IOM Online Bookstore

This post was written by:

Onyekachi Wambu - Executive Director, The African Foundation for Development (AFFORD)


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