What is the role of African diaspora humanitarianism during COVID-19?

Shabaka, on behalf of the African Union Citizens and Diaspora Organisations Directorate (CIDO) and with support by the German development cooperation, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, is undertaking a study to develop a nuanced understanding of diaspora response to humanitarian crises in origin countries, including resource mobilisation, skills exchange, and knowledge and technology transfer. 

This research will act as a grounding for evidence-based insights on how African diasporas are affected and responding to humanitarian crises, particularly Covid-19, in origin countries. It also seeks to identify mechanisms and adaptions used by diasporas to manage restrictions imposed by responses to COVID-19, such as border closures and barriers to money transfer of remittances. In addition, the research seeks to improve coordination with and between diasporas and ‘traditional’ humanitarian actors in response to COVID-19 and other humanitarian crises and finally to state how different contexts or types of crises shape the way diasporas engage with countries of origin. 

Recent humanitarian crises in Africa and the advent of the pandemic and impact of COVID-19 in Africa have made it necessary and quite important for different humanitarian efforts to take place on the continent. Different actors take part in these efforts to alleviate the situation in different countries. One such group of actors is members of the diaspora spread across different parts of the world. Referred to as diaspora humanitarianism, this group of people have been increasingly on the rise over the past years with African diasporas growing from year to year due to natural disasters, climate change, economic turmoil and political reasons among other factors. As African citizens escape harsh conditions in their countries of origin, moving to other continents, they still look back ‘home’ to support families and communities, particularly in times of crisis. 

Within the context of the global pandemic that is COVID-19, it is imperative to find out how different diaspora groups are engaging with the origin country through transnational initiatives supporting families and communities and the impact of these engagements. The diaspora is stepping in where some governments are struggling. Additionally, COVID-19 has affected everyone, including members of the African diaspora themselves in their different countries of settlement. It is also essential to find out how they have been impacted and how this affects their humanitarian engagement efforts with countries of origin. Case studies from Nigeria, Somalia and Zimbabwe will be considered as will profiles from the case study countries. 

Those from the Nigeria, Somalia and Zimbabwe diaspora can provide valuable insights into improving coordination with and between diasporas and ‘traditional’ humanitarian actors in response to COVID-19 and other humanitarian crises including how different contexts or types of crises shape the way diasporas engage with countries of origin. Interviews and data collection will take place during the last week of January 2021. Should you require any further information or would like to express interest in contributing to the study please contact Shabaka on thabani@shabaka.org. 

Note:
The research was commissioned by Citizens and Diaspora Organizations Directorate (CIDO) which is responsible for implementing the African Union’s vision of a people-oriented and driven organization based on a partnership between governments, civil society and diasporas. The directorate consists of the civil society and diaspora divisions. The research is supported by The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH project  “Support to the African Union on Migration and Displacement”