Africa: It is time to Recognize the Role played by the African Diaspora

7 Min Read

The Kenyan Community in Italy came together in June 2018 in a scintillating first event of its kind organized by John Mwangi Njoroge, the managing director of All Kenya Consulting. The celebration took place in the Egeria park along the famous Appia Antica Road.

The event that was named Tembea Kenya cultural and business exchange, whose key  word “Tembea” means, to visit and share, was started with the sole objective of bringing together Kenyan and Italian entrepreneurs from various business sectors such as real estate, media, tourism, energy, fashion and culture,  to interact and exchange ideas.

In an interview with African Business exchange, the founder John Mwangi said that the Kenyans in Italy had become more active and vibrant than in the past and were ready and willing to bridge the economic gap between Kenya and Italy by creating a common platform where companies and investors from both countries could meet and engage.

The guests took to the stage amid traditional dances, tasty food and beautiful and well displayed traditional items and artefacts, to reinforce the powerful role played by the African Diaspora in the development of both their countries of origin and their hosting nations. The messages from all the key speakers revolved around the proven fact that what was once seen as a challenge was today an opportunity to be taken advantage of: “Africans living and working abroad are strong agents of change.”

Cleophase Adrien Dioma, Coordinator of the Italy Africa Business Week and the African October festival stated that it was encouraging to see African diaspora communities beginning to organize themselves in their cities of residence. He said it was very important for these communities to learn how best to organize and structure their efforts efficiently in order to create synergies with other local stakeholders in their specific areas.  He emphasised that the Italian government through the Italian Agency for Development which is under the Ministry of Foreign affairs, was eager to create new partnerships to unlock the potential of the public and the private sector to co-fund and propel start-ups by young African innovators in order to create long lasting small and medium businesses.

African governments such as  Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya have acknowledged the decisive role played by the diaspora worldwide and have established specific agencies and ministerial institutions to establish stronger ties with their citizens working abroad, rightfully seen as valid resources in the short, medium and long term. Such institutions also provide guidelines and regulations to facilitate communication and economic flows between Africans working abroad and their counterparts in the countries of origin.

The African Foundation for Development and the African Diaspora Program launched by the World Bank, base their steps on the remittances made by the African diaspora. These remittances are actually said to be much more than the amounts recorded by aid organizations: in 2010 for example, the total diaspora contributions to Africa stood at $51.8 billion compared to roughly $43 billion in Oversea Development Assistance (ODA), according to the studies carried out by World Bank that year. Only two years later the World Bank figures showed that Africans in the diaspora sent back home no less than US$60 billion.

At the Tembea Kenya day, it was underlined that Kenya, in 2017 alone, received 1.7 billion USD in remittances from citizens working in the United Kingdom, the USA,  Japan and Italy among other countries that contributed smaller percentages.

This outstanding amount is said to be justified by the qualitative difference between the old and the new diaspora, the latter being formed by young and vibrant men and women prepared to discover new opportunities and become entrepreneurs and masters of their own destinies, rather than be hired by others in white collar jobs.  The remittances from the diaspora reach families, thereby helping them in their every day life by paying school fees, buying land and starting or improving local businesses. These contributions have an immediate and a long-term effect on peoples’ lives, thus representing a remarkable factor on the national building process.

Gianfranco Belgrano, the director of Internazionale, an international media group, who also spoke at the event, highlighted the important role of the media in clarifying the importance of the African workers to the Italian public. He stated that Africa was the present and the future of Europe and the world in general and hence opportunities like Tembea Kenya event, where people meet to exchange knowledge and experiences, were vital as possible avenues to building a better world than the one we live in today. He went on to say that the diaspora was a bridge and that the businesses they promote was the way to eliminate the negative stereotypes around Africa. “Let’s not forget that Africa is a booming continent, while Italy is still going through a crisis that is yet to end. In this exchange, Italy stands to gain more,” he said.

John Mwangi who is also the founder of Tembea – Italy Chapter shared his hope in light of the second edition of the event to be held next year saying, “This year we had ten exhibitors, next year we hope to have one hundred, in a much bigger location for at least two days because Italian and Kenyan banks are keen to be part of this event and to facilitate the establishment of business in both countries. This demonstrates that  African countries are now placing diaspora at the centre stage.”

By Giulio D’Ercole