How can talent abroad induce development at home? Towards a Pragmatic Diaspora Agenda
This is a book about the “how to” of one of the most important aspects of diaspora engagement — leveraging countries’ talent abroad to support development at home. The understanding that the diaspora (emigrants and their descendants who retain ties to their countries of origin or ancestry) can be a critical partner for development has emerged fairly recently, due in large part to the experience of two new global powers — China and India — whose rise to prominence owes much to the contributions of their talent abroad. In the amazingly short span of about 15 years, the importance of the diaspora to development has evolved from a novel and somewhat heretical hypothesis to conventional wisdom. Now it is commonly acknowledged that diasporas can be important, but the path of developing policies and programs to help realize the promise of diasporas has been fraught with frustration and disappointment. Diaspora contributions seem to come spontaneously rather than as a result of policy interventions; they are a matter of serendipity. By focusing on policy interventions that effectively promote diaspora contributions, the book fills an important gap in the literature.
The chapter aims to develop an indirect (or pragmatic) approach to facilitate the virtuous cycle of diaspora-home country interactions. This approach favors “high-resolution” diaspora policies — ones that cultivate the project-specific relationships and commitments of movers and shakers (both in the diaspora and in homeland institutions) that might make a significant difference and are counted in tens and hundreds. This novel indirect approach contrasts with conventional direct, or administrative, approaches. The indirect approach is currently in its infancy, which is why we had to rely on our personal policy experience perhaps more than is usual in the context of academic literature. In a nutshell, this chapter draws a parallel between a particular venture entrepreneur developing her high-risk, high-return venture with the help of a network of professional service providers and investors, and a diaspora first mover acting to implement, with support from her own problem-solving search networks, a project to upgrade her home country’s institutions. We also conclude that the core success factor of diaspora mobilization relates to the capabilities of home country institutions to motivate, direct and support diaspora over-achievers. From this perspective, the role of the home country’s government officials who become local champions of diaspora engagement becomes critical
This chapter focuses on the role of African diaspora high achievers in contributing to institutional development in their home countries over time. The discourse on African diasporas often focuses either on how diaspora members’ talent is lacking back home or how much their remittances and charities could fill the development finance gap. Yet this chapter examines how the African diaspora has helped to shape institutions in their home countries. The involvement of diaspora high achievers in shaping both public and private institutions is nothing new, and has taken place over three phases since the waves of African countries’ independence. However, most recently the process has been characterized by more efficient communication and increased business opportunities in Africa, allowing the highly skilled to strengthen their impact, especially with respect to building economic institutions.