19. Engaging the African Diaspora: How the Diaspora can Help to Improve Good Governance in Africa

E-mail of panel organisers: Linley.Chiwona.Karltun@slu.se, beth.ahlberg@vgregion.se

The role of the African Diaspora in the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), adopted by African leaders in 2003, if harnessed appropriately could enable the fast-tracking of a more inclusive and sustainable development. The main objective of the APRM is to enhance implementation of the New Partnership for Africa's Development by good governance standards including the economic and political fields.

It is easy to make a case for business and economic development and to bring in external support when it comes to developing Africa, but harder to embrace the African Diaspora. Several reports show the steady economic growth of many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, with industries, start-ups and construction pervasively channelled to the public through all forms of media. A closer examination at whom or what lies behind these activities reveals that the majority of them are externally driven, in terms of human resources. Yet the African Diaspora, particularly professionally trained African Diaspora continues to be an underutilised resource, when it comes to technical expertise, education and economic investments.   Many barriers, largely due to issues of poor governance inhibit the participation of the Diaspora. Africa has one of the youngest populations and most of these youths require an education that can make them relevant and competitive for the sustainable development of the African continent. Actively including the youth through mentoring could facilitate in fast-tracking the technical, cultural and education of Africa’s youth.

In this panel, we will discuss some of the innovative ways that the Africa Diaspora can contribute towards the African Peer Review Mechanism specifically in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). This session holds papers that try to go beyond the general debate on African Diaspora and their role in Africa’s development by identifying specific niches where their participation is marginally explored.


1. Moving the discourse sexual wellness: Opportunity for changing the seeming stuborn sexuality?

Author: Beth Maina Ahlberg (Uppsala University, and Skaraborg Institute for Research and Development, Sweden)


This paper attempts to map, drawing mainly from HIV and AIDS prevention interventions, the multiple discourses on sexuality, major players – individuals and institutions- and their influence on sexual expression. The aim is to provide a picture of the challenges and opportunities in transforming the concept of sexual wellness currently being articulated into action and thus avoid having wellness as just another buzz-word so common in the development industry. This is a move from the commonly held view of sexuality as a threat to health, to one promoting sexual wellness or positive view of sexuality. A postcolonial conceptual perspective is used in this paper in part to help grasp the multiple-realities emerging from the historical influences in part to offer space for serious reflexivity on the ambivalences and representations of Africa and African culture including sexuality, all which create complex contexts. This in turn questions the simple technical fixes used in development discourse and practice.

2. How Africa can leapfrog into the Advanced technology-driven world by tapping into the African Diaspora expertise.

Author: Dianah Ngonyamo-Majee (Association of African Agricultural Professionals in the Diaspora (AAAPD) and Biotech Stewardship Manager-Agron Traits at Monsanto Corporate Headquarters, USA)


The fastest growing economies in the world tend to aggressively pursue government policies that encourage their Diaspora communities to fully participate in development programs. Countries like China, India, Indonesia and Israel have successfully mobilized, gathered and reconnected their highly skilled expatriate communities with their mother countries. Unfortunately, most African governments are still struggling to introduce similar synergistic programs because of poor governance, lack of effort and targeted resources to mobilize the professional African Diaspora towards development of their home countries. With more and more African countries now realizing the potential impact of their Diaspora community resources, this may be the right time to explore and adopt strategies that could be used to harness the African Diaspora skills especially in new knowledge for technological advancement. The majority of professional Africans in the Diaspora have acquired advanced knowledge and skills in science and technology from their host countries that can be easily transferred to Africa. This will not only promote “brain gain” but will also avoid wasting time and the much needed resources trying to “reinvent the wheel”.  However, unless a progressive political environment is created, it will be very difficult to tap into the professional Diaspora resource skills, necessary to leapfrog the continent into the advanced technology driven world. African governments should institute policies that will integrate the Diaspora communities into national Science and Technology research and development programs. This presentation includes a discussion on how the development of science-based progressive regulatory policies, with input from the African Diaspora, combined with good governance and leadership, could help African countries to leapfrog into the current technology driven world. Case studies of scale-neutral technologies that can be easily transferred by experts from the Africa Diaspora community to help transform the agricultural industry, which is the mainstay of most African economies, will be presented.

3. Back to the Diaspora: Reversing Sail toward a Future for the APRM

Author: James B. Peterson (Lehigh University, USA)


The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), established and adopted by African leaders in 2003, has been in existence for just over a decade.  The APRM was designed to evaluate and measure governance standards across participating nations on the continent of Africa.  It is also, by design, a mechanism that is internal to the continent, established to generate metrics through which political and economic development across the continent might be comparatively assessed.  Through the APRM, governance, policy and development can be engaged by Africans, for the advancements of Africa.  On the occasion of the APRM’s 10th Anniversary, I was invited to moderate a program titled “APRM@10: Perspectives on Transformative Governance and the African Agenda 2063 - A Dialogue with the Diaspora, NGOs, Women, Youth and Academia.”  The event was organized by the UN Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA) in collaboration with the Department of Public Information (DPI) and NEPAD.  Its purpose was to both commemorate the successes of the APRM but also to challenge its member nations and chart its course going forward in the 21st Century.   In this presentation I will briefly report on these proceedings and then outline some of the challenges and charges for the APRM going forward.  These charges and challenges include: 1) acknowledging the youthful majority across the continent of Africa and engaging them through public education, popular culture, and civic participation; and 2) harnessing and (in part) returning the human resources of Africans throughout the diaspora.  I employ Gomez’s (2005) conceptualization of the diaspora to inform a discussion about how the APRM, youth culture, and the African Diaspora, together proffer some of the most exciting possibilities for holistic development, particularly in West Africa, but in more measured ways, across the continent in the 21st Century.

4. The role of youth African Diaspora in good governance and development of Africa

Authors: Kalkidan Mulatu (Ethiopian Mapping Autority) and Murat Sartas (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)


The contribution of African youth to the continents growth, prosperity, and stability is quite essential. However, various economic, political, and cultural causes had put a limit to this much needed participation. This issue appears even more pronounced in the case of African youth diasporas, as their involvement to the motherland is further constrained by geographical distance. It is rather unfortunate that such situation exists as the youth abroad has its own huge potential to contribute for the development of Africa. It is also the case that the youth diaspora becomes less informed and obscure about the economic, social, cultural, and political issues of Africa.
Despite this fact, various African youth networks exists in Europe, especially around universities where African students establishes an association in the aim of celebrating, promoting, and uniting Africa.  Furthermore, various activities are on-going in creating awareness about African issues to Europeans and even lobbying governments to review their policies regarding Africa and Africans. In addition such moments facilitates active youth participation in various policy, leadership, and  social fields their current country of residence and Africa.
Such networks should be supported and encouraged as they keep the diaspora African youth in favour of Africa and encourages many to contribute to the development of their home country/continent. Thus, this effort needs to be recognized and appreciated by the African community and leaders of Africa as it can help them involve the youth diaspora in development, economic, educational, capacity building, and decision making areas. This paper aims to describe and important potential contributions of youth African diaspora as well as emphasizing the urgent need to provide more space and resources for them.

5. University-private sector collaboration in Africa and role of African diaspora

Author: Marta Zdravkovic (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)


Tertiary Agricultural Education is taking place in an environment of complex constrain in Africa. In order to address some of the challenges, tertiary education institutions are venturing into collaborations with industries. One such program is UniBRAIN, a program that connects tertiary education institutions, research institutions and the private sector. The program is on a pilot roll out in five African countries, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Ghana and Mali.  It is organized in six consortia that manage the incubators with a goal of boosting and fast-tracking innovations and technologies.

This paper presents the challenges and opportunities for strengthening tertiary agricultural education and private sector collaboration. More specifically it looks at role of trust, dedication and persistence, as a key for sustainable partnerships and capacity building in Africa. Besides looking at university-private sector collaborations, the paper looks at north-south partnerships highlighting the importance of African diaspora. Data collection was done through literature review, semi-structured and in-depth interviews, and focus group interviews. In total 66 respondents from 23 organizations, businesses and institutions in Africa participated in the revealed study. The results show that mutual efforts in establishing student internships, curricula improvement, engaging in relevant research for industries, formalized institutional collaboration and services, benefit both institutions of learning and private sector. The paper also shows that activating networks with African diaspora which is an underutilized resource, can significantly contribute to the capacity building in Africa. In order for the participating individuals, institutions to maximize benefit, partners have to adopt a mutual code of conduct and mindset. Much more effort is required in building up a culture of professionalism and trust to build sustainable partnerships. These things take time, however if genuine investments are made to foster these partnerships they could enhance considerably the quality of tertiary agricultural education in Africa.

6. Is the rights based approach project a precondition for poverty reduction in Africa?

Author: Ngolia Kimanzu (Frälsningsarmén, Sweden)


There have been a lot of arguments both for and against adopting a rights based approach (RBA) to programme planning and implementation in poverty reduction efforts in Africa. This paper argues that a rights based approach is the only guarantee to sustainable poverty reduction in Africa and the recent efforts to integrate RBA have had remarkable success despite the lack of required capacity and resource allocation to make them an integral and part of the theory of change process of the programmes.

This paper further argues that the RBA approach should be seen as part of the overall holistic solution to addressing governance and ensuring the active participation of the rights-holders in tilting the balance of power to those who are mostly impacted by poverty. It calls for a balanced approach by ensuring that livelihoods interventions are made at the same time with strong policy and advocacy so that the state and other duty bearers are held accountable.

A robust theory of change both during programme planning and execution is a prerequisite for the success of a rights based approach to poverty reduction. This is an outcome based approach that applies critical thinking to the design, implementation of programmes intended to support change in their contexts. It recognises the long-term nature of the change process and the underlying assumptions about how these changes will happen as a check on whether the activities and outputs are appropriate for influencing change in the desired direction.

The success of RBA and the theories of change that support this process will only give the required impact if donors and funders who wish to work and support these initiatives desist from mandatory requirements, products or prescribed process as conditions for funding. Otherwise this will only become a compliance exercise and lose much of its value.

7. Leveraging Agricultural Knowledge, Innovation & Resources through Collaboration with African Diaspora Networks for Africa’s Food Security

Author: Peter Jeranyama (University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA)


Weak agricultural research, extension and training (RET) institutions have become a major constraint to developing appropriate technologies and raising productivity among smallholder farmers in Africa. Africa’s next phase of development requires a major mobilization effort of all stakeholders including the Diaspora. In the past the Diaspora has been viewed as the cause of brain drain, however, there is a realization that they are a global stock for science, technology and industrial development (STI). The Diaspora networks can catalyze Africa’s agricultural transformation and facilitate information and technology exchange, encourage public-private RET investment and collaboration, advance agricultural policy dialogue that enhance smallholder farmer productivity and rural business. The Diaspora networks should identify innovative cutting-edge science and innovation, business opportunities for Africa’s smallholder farmers and rural business capable of raising productivity and creating new opportunities.

Changes in the world food economy and international capital markets dramatize the need for Africa’s agricultural strategy to be continually modified in the context of changing international realities. Research on international and regional commodity markets is a crucial input into national or regional food policy analysis. Many in the Diaspora are involved in international food systems, business and policy and their skills could be brought to bear.

There remain opportunities in developing innovative and locally appropriate technologies for smallholder irrigation that complements rain-fed agriculture. The irrigation infrastructure in Africa is thin and its role in future agricultural revolution can be significant in increasing productivity, diversifying into higher value crops. The Diaspora have oopportunities to invest in this agricultural bioeconomy with potential to benefit many rural communities in Africa from advances in science that ignite new rural industries and stimulate the development of bio-based products, energy, and services that not only add value to agricultural commodities and make use of natural resources, but also create new rural economic livelihoods.

8. Diaspora-driven development – and dispute: Home-area associations and municipal politics in Mali

Author: Sten Hagberg (Uppsala University, Sweden)


This paper is about a rural municipality where people in the diaspora are supporting local development and social change, while simultaneously fuelling conflict and dispute. The municipality of Kiban in Mali is dominated by Soninke, an ethnic group with a long history of migration and trade. Even though Bambara farmers and Fulbe agro-pastoralists reside in villages, the Soninke are in majority in Kiban, and as much as 9 out 11 councilors originate from the town. Here municipal politics and local development is basically “a Soninke affair”.
Kiban diaspora are engaged trade in the capital Bamako, as well as in countries like Angola, Congo Brazza, China, France, Belgium and USA. Still, each family has members that reside in Kiban. In general, the diaspora are well-organized, and maintain strong links with people in the home-town.
In the paper I elaborate on how the two main home-area associations in Kiban are vehicles for development and dispute. First, the home-area association Soumpon was founded in Bamako in the 1940s to invest and support people in Kiban. Second, the home-area association Soninkara was founded in 2000 after a conflict between Soumpoun and the then mayor; the latter considered that the diaspora should support “the municipality”, whereas Soumpoun wanted to support “the population”. Since then, these two associations, both of which are led from Bamako but with local representatives, have been competing, especially with respect to municipal politics in Kiban. In other words, while the diaspora are certainly drivers of development, they are simultaneously drivers of dispute.

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