This past week I contributed a piece to the Global Development Professionals Network, a new Guardian initiative. Their current series is focused on Africa. My piece is a focus on how Africans in the Diaspora are leveraging the power of social media to reconnect with the continent.
The full impact of Africa’s diaspora engaging intellectually and materially in the continent’s development needs more time to mature fully. Although we contribute more in remittances than foreign direct investment and are fast becoming the voice of the continent, we don’t have a solid role in the continent’s governance – yet. Changing the political landscape is going to take much longer than organising a fundraiser from afar. To really have an effect on the political process, we will need to go beyond sideline commentary. We need to engage in the political process, both at the international and local levels. This, however, will take time to accomplish. As much as we bicker about corruption, intransigent dictatorships, and lack of civil services, our most effective role – for now – may be limited to economic development and advocacy. So long as our collective voice and our money continue to engage the continent, our political influence won’t be far behind. Thanks to social media, this is a task we are beginning to take on – and one we must take on collaboratively.
Social media is powering and strengthening the work that those of us who are engaged with the continent. Some of the success of the projects launched here at PD can be directly attributed to the use of social media. The discussion around the piece has been interesting, with some taking issue that I singled out the Diaspora as the only class of Africans leveraging social media for the benefit of the continent. I would have to say this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Both the diaspora and continental Africans have really elevated the presence of the continent on the internet, and this couldn’t have been more evident than the deluge of negative sentiment against the Kony 2012 video.It was the first time that I experienced Africa’s collective voice rising above Western media pundits. The piece in question was a focused comment on how the diaspora is leveraging this new technology as we increase our efforts to rekindle our connection with the continent.
Wether we are Africans in the Diaspora or Africans on the content, none of us are ever going to agree on anything. It is a human condition that we all express ourselves differently and are passionate about different things. But what unifies us, or what should unify us, is the collective struggle to change the status quo. We are all working on different initiatives in different locals, but we are using social media to share each of our efforts. And through social media, we are discovering each other’s efforts and strengthening our resolve to reclaim our continent.
I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on the piece and what you are using social media for.