The Potential for Diaspora-Driven Development


SEATTLE — People who migrated from the developing world have played a major role in lifting their home countries out of poverty. Recent stories from Rwanda and Zimbabwe highlight new ways in which people from developing countries living abroad are giving back through diaspora-driven development.

Victoria Ruzvidzo, the managing editor of Zimbabwe’s The Herald, penned an opinion piece in which she explores how the Zimbabwean government can encourage the country’s 2 million diasporans to invest back home.

Zimbabwe has been a longtime beneficiary of diaspora remittances. From 2014 to 2015, foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country dropped from $545 million to $421 million, but official remittances grew from $800 million to $935 million in the same period. In fact, according to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, the country’s central bank, money transfers from non-resident Zimbabweans have become the second-largest source of cash domestically behind exports.

The Zimbabwean government decided to set up Investlink to tap into additional financial resources of the country’s diaspora. Under this program, diasporans would group their investments together for use in development projects and export industries.

There are similar institutions geared towards diaspora-driven development in other African countries. The Rwandan Diaspora Global Network (RDGN), for example, aims to facilitate trade between Rwanda and the rest of the world with the help of non-resident Rwandans and their expertise.

In a letter to the editor of Rwanda’s The New Times, Alice K. Cyusa, Chairperson of the RDGN, wrote that members of the Rwandan diaspora have been visiting local companies like laptop manufacturer Positivo BGH and organizations such as the Women Imports and Exports Network (WIEN) to learn more about Rwandan brands. “This will allow them to effectively act as ambassadors of these products in the respective nations they live in,” she explained.

Outside of these institutions, diasporas have also expressed interest in helping their home countries. On July 29, 2016, The New Times reported that a delegation of 10 U.S.-based Rwandans met with Tony Nsanganira, Rwanda’s Minister of State for Agriculture, to discuss investing in the country’s agriculture sector, specifically, crop processing and packaging.

As the above examples point out, diaspora-driven development provides not only financial support for developing countries but also involves invaluable transfers of knowledge and skills. Diasporans are uniquely suited for alleviating poverty because they often have a personal interest in doing so. Whether for their families or the well-being of their home countries, we should build more channels for them to give back to their communities.

Philip Katz

Photo: Flickr



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