The perception that “the Diaspora” is a drain out of Africa -a loss, of sorts- has seen a bit of a reversal recently. There is no exact estimate on the total number of Africans living outside the continent. Nevertheless, their contributions to its development are undeniably large.
A side event for the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), which began in earnest on Monday, 15th July in Accra, Ghana, was organized by Iowa State University and the Association of African Agricultural Professionals in the Diaspora (AAAPD) on “Mobilizing the Diaspora for agricultural transformation in Africa.” The event highlighted a number of initiatives across the continent that the African Diaspora is carrying out to support agricultural development.
Notable amongst the contributions made by the Diaspora are remittances, which are indicated to be on the rise according to data from the World Bank. In 2011, remittances to Sub-Saharan Africa alone totaled in excess of $22 billion; in 2012, the sum was $31 billion. Total remittances for the entire continent amounted to about $60 billion. These substantial funds could serve as an alternative source of foreign direct investment and international development aid to Africa.
In addition to remittances, the Diaspora is also playing an active role in bridging skills gap in areas such as education, technical training, business, science and technology.
One of the initiatives presented at the side event was the online database of African agricultural professionals in the Diaspora, hosted by the AAAPD. The database currently has 600 registered members, a number that is steadily on the rise. Many of them are academics, researchers, extension specialists, agricultural economists and development specialists.
According to Dr. Andrew Manu, Vice President of AAAPD, the association is operated purely on volunteer support from the Diaspora. “We want Africa to be the land of milk and honey,” he said, “for Africans and by Africans.” To this end, the association aims to build a strong network of African agricultural professionals including scientists and businessmen to strengthen institutional relationships with African public, private and civil sectors.
The result, they say, will be improved agricultural development thanks to the facilitation of information exchange, knowledge transfers and resource mobilization, to the benefit smallholder farmers and rural businesses. Building strategic partnerships between African agricultural insitutions and organizations across the world is also part of the plan.
The African Diaspora is eager to return and contribute to the continent’s development. Working together to achieve this goal, despite the many challenges likely to stand in the way, will be a sure way for the Diaspora to contribute to the goal of Africans feeding Africa.
Blogpost by Worlali Senyo, a social media reporter for AASW6.