In recent years, the exodus of young people from Africa has been growing, driven by factors such as unemployment, limited opportunities, and an idealized view of Western countries. This mass migration represents a pressing challenge for the region, as it leads to a significant loss of human capital and potential. Economic Factors driving African youth to seek opportunities abroad like high unemployment and limited access to quality education, are key factors propelling young people to seek better prospects elsewhere. However, amidst this crisis lies an opportunity for change. Drawing inspiration from countries like Morocco and Ethiopia, which have successfully harnessed the power of their diasporas, the African diaspora can play a pivotal role in supporting youth empowerment and sustainable development in their home countries. This article highlights the best practices of diaspora engagement from Morocco and Ethiopia.
The Power of Diaspora Investment
Drawing insights from successful examples, this segment will highlight the strategies employed by Morocco and Ethiopia to leverage their diasporas for development.
The Moroccan model
Morocco, through many initiatives, with its Diaspora have been able to mobilize them effectively.
One example of a successful strategy is the programme for the mobilization of highly skilled MLAs (Moroccans Living Abroad) called ‘Mobilization Program Skills’. This programme calls upon Moroccan professionals who are ready to contribute with their expertise, experience, and know-how to the development of Morocco. It aims to provide a framework for these professionals that will inform them of opportunities in Morocco and allow them to develop partnerships with Moroccan public and private actors and support professionals abroad who establish projects in Morocco. This strategy is based on the compilation of networks of MLA competencies, the organization of preparatory meetings to inform MLAs about the needs for competencies in sectors that attract them in Morocco, the encouragement of proposals for entrepreneurship and partnership projects by the network that meet the needs of Morocco, the organization of a forum with Moroccan counterparts interested in these projects, and the establishment of partnerships for their implementation.
A second example is a programme called ‘MDM invest’. This provides a mechanism to encourage investors in Moroccan enterprises. It is built around providing three basic possibilities for funding. MDM invest can provide:
• equity (in foreign currency) of at least 25% of the projected amount of the project,
• a state subsidy of 10% of the start-up costs (with a ceiling of 5 million dirhams), and/or
• a bank loan (if necessary) that can reach 65% of the start-up costs.
A third example is the United Nations programme entitled TOKTEN (Transfer of Knowledge through Expatriate Nationals).
Since 1993, Morocco has organized several meetings of the Moroccan Diaspora as part of the TOKTEN programme. TOKTEN aims primarily at mobilizing national professionals living abroad to contribute, through missions and scientific support, for the development of Morocco. These TOKTEN meetings brought together Moroccan professionals from all backgrounds to discuss the possibilities of mobilization without, however, leading to real programmes and without choosing to move to the institutionalization of a sustainable mechanism in the framework of a national strategy of mobilization of Moroccan professionals living abroad.
In June 2009, Morocco created a national innovation strategy entitled ‘Innovation Morocco’ to build a favourable ecosystem for the development of innovation within Moroccan companies and research organizations. Innovation Morocco was made operational in March 2011. This strategy consists of four strategic areas:
• Governance and Regulatory Framework,
• Infrastructure and Clusters,
• Funding and Support, and
• Mobilizing Talents which includes members of the worldwide Moroccan community of innovation. In this context, the Moroccan Office for Industrial and Commercial Property, in partnership with the Ministry of Industry, established the Moroccan Innovation club—a virtual platform dedicated to innovation—to network Moroccan innovation actors both in Morocco and abroad.
The Moroccan Association for Scientific Innovation and Research (MAScIR)
The Ministry of Industry, Trade, Investment and the Digital Economy established the Moroccan Association for Scientific Innovation and Research (MAScIR) Foundation in 2007. The foundation’s mission is to promote and develop a centre of innovation and competitiveness based on the needs of the market. MAScIR leads projects that are positioned on technological and application niches with a high added value in the areas of advanced technology such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, and microelectronics.
The Ethiopian model
The Government of Ethiopia recognizes that a partnership needs to be built with the diaspora to benefit both parties and has worked to grant significant rights and privileges to the diaspora since the establishment of the Ethiopian Expatriate Affairs (EEA) in 2002, and the Ethiopian Diaspora Agency later. The Ethiopian government has encouraged the diaspora to invest in the country both financially and through knowledge exchange to assist in developing the country and improving its fiscal situation
With an ever increasing remittance flows over the last couple of decades, the diaspora’s role in the development efforts of the country has gained broader interest from both researchers and receiving countries. Besides financial remittances, flows of skills, knowledge, and social remittances have also gained more attention, particularly the relevance of diaspora associations as drivers of development processes.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) reservoir is a source of national pride for many Ethiopians – the dam is being built for Ethiopians, by Ethiopians. Most of the funds for the dam have been raised from Ethiopians through the purchase of bonds. The Dam will provide electricity to Ethiopia and to neighbouring countries.
Over the past 10 years, the Ethiopian Diaspora has been supporting the construction of GERD both financially and diplomatically irrespective of the apparent political differences one may expect from the diaspora. However, the support has never seen such a massive growth until the first filling of the dam was materialized. The first filling of the GERD has not only accelerated the rate of support the Ethiopian diaspora has been making but also increased its motivation to the highest level.
This contribution was made either by buying bonds or giving large sums of money as a gift for the completion of the dam. In total, over the last ten years,The diaspora has contributed close to 50 million dollars.
Considering the impact of the financial contribution the diaspora has been making over the years, the government is devising different approaches that can harness the diaspora’s potential to the fullest. When these mechanisms become operational, they are supposed to boost the financial support.
The diaspora has also intensified its fight for Ethiopia’s equitable share of the Nile waters. In the quest for Ethiopia’s legitimate rights over the Nile waters, many in the diaspora have held rallies in support of Ethiopia’s stride towards providing light to its people in the dark. Major cities across the world be it in the US, Europe and Australia have witnessed avalanches of Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia in their streets requesting Ethiopia’s fair share on the Nile, among others.
Members of the Ethiopian diaspora have not only filled streets of western capitals for the request of equitable share of the Nile waters, they have also been making different public relations campaigns and advocating Ethiopia’s cause to the whole world by using media outlets. Ethiopians’ residing in the Arab countries or those who are eloquent in Arabic language have become common faces in Arabic channels challenging the status quo.
In conclusion, the African diaspora holds immense potential to drive massive progress for the continent. Through effective mobilization strategies, innovative initiatives, and increased advocacy, African nations can unlock the full power of their diaspora and create a transformative path towards sustainable development and prosperity for their people. Embracing the strength and dedication of the diaspora, Africa can build a brighter future, where its young people find hope and opportunity on their own soil.