Mapping Study on the Role and Faces of African Diaspora Humanitarianism during COVID-19

The Mapping Study on the Role and Faces of African Diaspora Humanitarianism during COVID-19 sought to determine how different African diaspora groups engage with their countries of origin, through transnational initiatives that support families and communities in response to COVID-19. In addition, the study also sought to find evidence of how COVID-19 has impacted the transnational humanitarian efforts of African diaspora members and their communities within their countries of settlement. The study, therefore, develops a nuanced understanding of diaspora response to humanitarian crises in countries of origin, including resource mobilisation, skills exchange, knowledge and technology transfer. 

The study put together different actors within diaspora humanitarianism, focusing on diaspora members and organisations, government representatives in the countries of origin, non- governmental organisations and academics with expertise in the field. A total of 17 individuals representing these organisations from Nigeria, Somalia and Zimbabwe took part in the study. Also, secondary data on the Sudanese and DR Congolese diaspora and their engagements was collected. 

The full report includes case studies from DR Congo, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe as well as key trends in African diaspora engagement in humanitarian action. 

The findings indicate there are numerous opportunities for collaboration and potential synergies between governments, national and international organisations, the private sector and diaspora communities to enhance humanitarian response. There are also opportunities to magnify the diaspora’s human capital and financial resources contribution to addressing humanitarian crises. However, these opportunities currently appear to be missing and there is a great need to listen to diaspora voices. 

Key Findings 

Knowledge exchange 

  • The pandemic made it difficult for the diaspora to volunteer in person in countries of origin due to travel restrictions 
  • There was a marked increase in the utilisation of online platforms to share information 
  • Workshops were held to dispel myths around COVID-19 by health professionals in settlement countries 
  • Sharing information about best practices 

Resource mobilisation 

  • Person to person fundraising was affected due to reduced contact with people. This was particularly salient among the older generation 
  • People had less ability to access personalised networks for resource mobilisation due to lockdowns 
  • Border closures affected the movement of goods back to the countries of origin 
  • Some governments offered to aid the process of moving goods by donating 
  • In some instances, governments played a crucial role in facilitating the distribution of donated goods and funds across the country 

Remittances 

  • The flow of remittances to families in some countries did not decline 
  • Some diaspora members were affected by layoffs and furlough due to COVID-19 

Recommendations 

  • Member states and other humanitarian actors should focus on the humanitarian- development nexus as a core modality of diaspora engagement. 
  • Diaspora policies by Member States should include a humanitarian action component. 
  • The African Union should expand diaspora coordination and engagement across African Union institutions. 
  • Increase public understanding of ongoing diaspora humanitarian initiatives by NGOs, governments and interstate organisations, as well as diaspora groups and organisations themselves. 
  • The African Union and Member States should map diaspora resource individuals for humanitarian action and to monitor and evaluate diaspora humanitarian initiatives. 
  • Diaspora groups and organisations should engage in closer collaboration and coordination to also extend beyond their countries of settlement and origin. 
  • The African Union should support the coordination of inter-continental diaspora and among diaspora groups and organisations. 

Dr Thabani Mutambasere shares his findings