This is a guest post by Solome Lemma
Before we start, it is important to recognize that what we refer to as the African diaspora is not monolithic. There are many diaspora communities with their own histories, interests, needs and opportunities.
That said let me get straight to the point. Namely that it is time to invigorate the project of mobilizing resources, skills, and voices of diaspora Africans who can re-imagine, reframe, and reclaim “aid” in Africa.
The African Diaspora as well as the aid industry are popular topics of conversation, however, governments, international organizations and financial institutions mainly drive them. These bodies promote important discussions, about how African diaspora wealth can boost economic growth on the continent, and about the scope that remittances have to bolster economic development in home countries to name a few examples.
However, the most essential, and the conversation that I am urging us to keep engaging in, is how to use the tremendous resources available to the African diaspora to contribute to meaningful change in our countries of residence and/or origin. In the US, for instance, the African diaspora are the most educated immigrant group and we send over $40 billion dollars in remittances each year. Since 2007, remittance flows to Africa have exceeded official aid and amount to approximately $200 billion. Despite these contributions, discussions on the African diaspora’s role in aid initiatives continues to be shaped by larger institutions and agencies, such as the World Bank and the African Union. Even non-profit organizations like Global Giving, Ashoka, and the Calvert Foundation are offering services to the Diaspora.
Where are the diaspora in these discussions? Are we forging the necessary alliances, partnerships, and relationships to represent our collective interests? Are we building institutions that combine our skills and resources to insert our voices into these conversations?
While it is important to recognize the limits and constraints of the diaspora’s roles, and to acknowledge groups like Project Diaspora, Diaspora African Women’s Network, Council of Young African Leaders and Priority Africa Network who have made significant contributions, there remains a huge demand for us in the diaspora to drive dialogue, influence decisions and affect change. Otherwise, we risk remaining an open opportunity, driven by external interests and agendas.
This is why Africans in the Diaspora (AiD) exists. Conversations about the financial power of the Diaspora are widely pervasive, but where is the platform that pools and invests those resources strategically? AiD offers a platform where diasporans can invest in reputable African social change organizations and ventures, facilitating a direct link between Africans on the continent and in the diaspora.
We are presently in the middle of a 40-day holiday fundraising campaign to mobilize and pool resources from the diaspora to invest in three African social change organizations. Just two weeks into it, we have over $15,000 raised, with investments coming from the US, UK, and Canada. It is inspiring to see where people invest and why. For example, contrary to some assumptions, Africans are giving to organizations based outside of their home countries, even when their home country is represented.
But AiD is beyond a platform. It’s a community building organization that aims to reclaim “aid” in Africa and to ensure Africans drive change in their communities.
Will you join us in claiming our power?
Solome Lemma is the co-founder and executive director of Africans in the Diaspora (AiD). She has 10 years of experience working in and on Africa. Solome was recently recognized as a White House Champion of Change for her work with Diaspora communities. She was also named as one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s “100 women to follow on twitter.” You can follow her on twitter at @innovateafrica.