Amini Kajunju, President and CEO of the Africa-America Institute has an op-ed and interview on CNN about the potential of Africa’s Diaspora.
Lastly, diasporans can bring their talent, energy, skills and technological know-how to furthering economic progress in Africa. Many Africans in the diaspora want to eventually go back home after living abroad. However, one of their biggest challenges is finding suitable employment once they return.
The demand for talent is high in Africa, yet the wide skills gap is a sobering reality. A McKinsey Global Institute Report estimates that 122 million people will be added to Africas labor force between 2010 and 2020, creating a burgeoning labor force of more than 500 million across the continent.
Skilled professionals from the African Diaspora are recognizing the tremendous opportunities that exist in Africa and are repatriating home in greater numbers to fill top positions at multinational corporations and organizations on the continent. They are also investing in Africas emerging markets and launching African-led businesses and enterprises to create well-needed jobs and spur economic growth.
If I was to follow my gut instinct on this one, I’d say that there’s a large percentage of reaspora interested in going back to the continent, but aren’t interested in working for anyone. Most of the connected Diaspora that I engage with know that there aren’t many career opportunities available to them. Instead, they key in on the opportunity to create their own career path.
Most of us active and engaged members of the diaspora are working on something “on the side” aimed at Africa while we fulfill our 40-hour-week career requirements.
I think where the diaspora can make a massive difference is not in their employability (even though there will be a need in certain sectors for their skills), it is their intellectual, political and financial muscle. Organize a pipeline to harness the above three attributes and you have a massive catalyst for development that far outweighs the most ambitious international development project.
The problem is, those three attributes also present a colossal problem. Africa isn’t monolithic. Solutions to its development have to be just as diversified as the problems. Now that I think about it, this is where traditional development falls flat. There’s too much energy attempting to create that one solution that will apply to all development scenarios. Traditional developments abhors customization, it is too married to the quest for scalability and replication.
Africa’s Diaspora is the very essence of customization. It is going to be a very rare occasion to find two members of the Diaspora working on exactly the same project and applying the same solution.
Where AAI can be more effective perhaps, is in using its history and connections to lobby the African Union to create blanket policy initiatives that can encourage the Diaspora to engage more. For example, there’s a lot that can be done to reduce the cost of remittances to the continent; there’s a lot that can be done to improve Diaspora voting participation; and there’s certainly a lot that can be done to improve the cost of doing business on the continent.