Shabaka was invited to host a panel discussion as part of the Ibrahim Governance Weekend, an annual event organised by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Shabaka’s session focused on the Diaspora’s role in Africa’s path to recovery.
Based on Shabaka’s recent research on diaspora responses to COVID-19 in Africa and other crises, the team and panelists discussed the challenges those in the diaspora and their families in origin countries face, how COVID-19 has impacted the way they engage and support, and also driven a need for innovation and adoption of digital platforms. The session aimed to facilitate a dialogue on the diaspora’s role in strengthening humanitarian preparedness, response, and recovery in Africa.
Emma Orefuwa, Director of Africa Programmes at the Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections (GAFFI), highlighted that the diaspora should not come as an afterthought, but rather that its contributions should be acknowledged and amplified. There should be more information gathering, communication, practical pathways for engagement, greater policy coherence, and tangible measures.
Bora Kamwanya, Deputy Secretary General of the Pan-African Youth Union, stressed the impact of the pandemic on African youth in the diaspora, particularly on their mental health and ability to connect with their community. These links can be strengthened through online spaces. He emphasised the role of the youth in African development, and the importance of creating jobs for young African diaspora members.
Kirstie Kwarteng, PhD candidate at SOAS’ Department of Development Studies, spoke on the role of African diasporas on the frontline of COVID-19 responses in their countries of settlement, such as the UK and US. Interestingly, they are also engaged in awareness raising, information sharing and philanthropy to support their communities. Whilst there have been challenges, different generations have mobilised resources, financial but also technological, to support each other.
Yusuf Sheikh Omar, Director of Ilaysnabad, discussed the complexity of the diaspora’s double duty to countries of settlement and origin and noted how they get involved in and support local communities both ‘here’ and ‘there’ The diaspora support their community through remittances but also, and especially with second and subsequent generations, through exchanging knowledge, education, networks and critical thinking.
Some interesting takeaways from the discussion included the need to define the diaspora beyond a Western-centric perspective, the complexity of relationships to home, the importance of trust and reaching out, as well as the central role of technology.
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