AfDB Brings Experts Together to Reflect on Africa Diaspora’s Contribution to Capacity Building and Development
The Fragile Sates Unit brought together experts from the African Diaspora, representatives of governments, the private sector and Governments of India, China and South Korea to exchange lessons on mobilizing the contribution of the African Diaspora for development in their countries of origin and across the region.
The seminar, held as a side event during the Bank’s May 2010 Annual Meetings in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, was titled “Mobilizing the African Diaspora for Capacity Building and Development: Focus on Fragile States.”
In his opening remarks Bank’s Vice-President for Operations, Kamal El Kheshen, emphasized the crucial role of Diaspora experts in the development of Africa, especially in “filling the capacity gap for implementing technical assistance and state building programs”.
For him, the Diaspora should be a necessary resort for countries “with extremely weak institutional and human capacity to tap into highly qualified pools of citizens abroad in delivering assistance, and leverage their capital and entrepreneurship for private sector activities”.
Filling the Capacity Gap
Mr. El Kheshen went on to mention the Bank’s support to countries in “developing and implementing policies and strategies to enable them effectively engage their Diaspora”.
In his view, “the rationale for the Bank to engage the Diaspora is clear: if exodus of professionals or brain drain is a major factor in institutional and human capacity gaps in Africa, then brain drain approaches, involving some of these émigrés and South-South cooperation are antidotes to bridging these gaps”.
The seminar provided an opportunity for members of the Diaspora to exchange ideas, and to learn from the Governments of China, India and South Korea on the contribution of their Diasporas to the progress of their respective country. Mr. Anup Pujari, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Finance of India, said that the Diaspora of India who migrated to the West, especially to the United States, was instrumental in the development of information technology in India.
For his part, Mr Seung-Hun Chun, President of the Korean Institute for Development Strategy underlined the political will of Korea in helping its Diaspora. South Korea, he said, was able to reach its present industrial level thanks to the contribution of its Diaspora, especially the scientists, who benefited from strong incentives to return home from Japan, the United States and Canada.
Brain drain is better than brain in the drain
On the issue of whether experts from the Diaspora should return home in order to contribute to the development of Africa, Mr. Pujari from India said that “Brain drain is better than brain in the drain”.
A view fully shared by Margaret Kilo, Head of the Bank’s Fragile States Unit. For her “With modern technology and globalization the African Diaspora does not have to return home to contribute to the development of the continent; they can contribute their talent without necessarily relocating. What sense would it make for highly qualified doctors, engineers, researchers - working in advanced technology settings in the Western world - to relocate or move to fragile states where they can only apply a tiny percent of the knowledge they have acquired? ”
The solution, Margaret Kilo added, is for governments “to put in place mechanisms that would allow them to help the continent, even from afar. The return of the Diaspora should not or cannot be artificially orchestrated; it will come with the improvement of social, economic and political situation in countries. Brain drain is good for Africa because it should force us to train and train. Eventually, as in other countries, this brain will return, if we actively engage it”.
Members from the Diaspora expressed their eagerness to contribute their expertise to the progress of their countries and advocated for the improvement of the judiciary for business and the establishment of regulatory frameworks for the Diaspora.
According to Mr. Dare Afolabi, a US-based engineer, specializing in agriculture and education, “one of the pre-occupations of the Diaspora is how to match the expertise and the knowledge we have and use in advanced countries with the local realities. Sometimes, when we transfer the skill we have to Africa, it does not match up, and therefore it does not work”.
In her closing remarks Margaret Kilo said that the meeting was educative. “It definitely met its principal objective, which was to share global experiences and good practices with stakeholders on policies and instruments that are effective for better engaging the African Diaspora”, she said.
In total, the seminar saw an enthusiastic participation of Diaspora networks, representatives of African Governments, the private sector and the media.