Development without borders: Leveraging the African Diaspora for inclusive growth and sustainable development in Africa


Bank President Akinwumi Adesina (center) with participants at a two-day event in Abidjan on tapping the skills and wealth of the African Diaspora. Image courtesy of

African Development Bank recently organized a forum titled “Development without Borders: Leveraging the African Diaspora for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development in Africa”. The event was thronged by academics and leaders of international institutions from around the world who came together and discussed ways to harness the skills, wealth, and dynamism of Africa’s 160-million-strong diaspora to its growth and development.

AfBD President Akinwumi A. Adesina in Stockholm, Sweden. Image from Twitter/@akin_adesina

As African governments are looking for ways to secure financing for infrastructure, enhance research and technology sharing, and prepare for the future workforce, the seminar sought to highlight the importance of securitizing remittances, diaspora bonds, promoting trade and investment, enhancing research and innovation, and technology sharing.

According to 2021 statistics, the African diaspora remitted $95.6 billion to Africa in 2021, making it the largest financier of the continent. However, despite high remittance flows, the official development assistance stood at $35 billion. To bridge the gap, the forum discussed deepening intra-continental trade, making economic growth more inclusive, and preparing for the jobs of the future in order to realize growth and make economies more sustainable.

African Development Bank President Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina said that Africa should securitize remittances to promote investments, especially for infrastructure on the continent. “The African diaspora has become the largest financier of Africa! And it is not debt; it is 100% gifts or grants, a new form of concessional financing that is the key for livelihood security for millions of Africans,” he said. Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina added:

“Because the flow of remittances to Africa is high, rising, and stable, it offers huge opportunities to serve as collateral to secure financing for African economies. African countries should securitize remittances to promote investments, especially for infrastructure on the continent”.

Deputy African Union Commission Chairperson Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa recalled that African heads of state committed to engaging the diaspora as far back as 2012. As well as an African Institute for Remittances, and an African Diaspora Investment Fund, among other initiatives.

The Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) secretariat, Wamkele Mene, said that operationalizing the AfCFTA would ease the way for diaspora communities to invest in Africa. He cited the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System, a collaboration between the African Export and Import Bank (Afreximbank) and the AFCFTA secretariat, which works with Africa’s central banks to establish financial market infrastructure for commercial banks, payment service providers, card schemes, and other intermediaries to handle payment and settlement service across Africa.

The Director-General of the International Organization for Migration Antonio Vitorino urged African countries to take a proactive approach to their overseas communities. “Governments need to get to know their diaspora; this starts with knowing where the diaspora is located, what their skills and capacities are, and how willing they are to engage in development at home,” he said. Mr. Vitorino also pointed to philanthropic engagement and diaspora tourism as potential areas of mutual interest for African governments and the diaspora.

The African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Albert Muchanga, emphasized the need for African countries to be involved in global trade while deepening pan-African trade through the African Continental Free Trade Area. Beyond remittances, the African diaspora also offers opportunities for philanthropic engagement and diaspora tourism.

The forum also emphasized the importance of changing the narrative and perceptions about Africa, which is the oldest, youngest, and soon to be the largest continent. Engaging the African diaspora community is a significant source of financing, investment, expertise, and skills transfer to businesses and workers in their home countries.


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