Almaz Negash knows the power of the African diaspora. She’s part of it. “The contemporary or new African diaspora are those of us who have immigrated to the United States probably after the 1960s and we came here either to escape political persecution or for education or other means,” said Negash. In 2010 she founded the African Diaspora Network, a non-profit that works to empower and invest in leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators from Africa, the African diaspora, and friends of Africa who are committed to Africa’s development and prosperity and the communities where they live.
During her #HeiferTogether discussion with Heifer CEO Pierre Ferrari on July 8th, Negash discussed the African diaspora and their impact on the continent:
- Remittance payments, or money sent by a person to their home country, are part of the global diaspora culture and the African diaspora are diligent and generous in sending money home. “Africans are absolutely the most generous diasporants that I know. When we are asked, we give,” said Negash. “And, in fact, so many, many of the diasporants a lot of their income goes to serve, to give back to their communities.”
- Globally, remittances outstrip the global aid given to poor countries. According to the World Bank, well over 600 billion dollars are sent home every year by immigrants around the world (and that number is only expected to rise), while the budget for global development aid is only about 150 billion dollars.
- This generosity is made all the more impressive because members of the diaspora don’t have the luxury of generational wealth. They have to work exceptionally hard to establish that for themselves and their children. “The new diaspora, like me, we come here with no generational wealth. We have to work extremely hard to advance ourselves, to go to school … We do very well in education and in advancing ourselves and getting good positions,” said Negash.
- Remittances, though they might be sent to a single family or community, don’t just benefit individuals. They benefit entire countries. “Remittances play a big role in Africa, not only just the family that receives, but the countries … especially the small, poor countries that don’t have much money, they can use these remittances to leverage their economic activities.” Furthermore, if governments would offer members of the diaspora investment opportunities in their home country, Negash is confident that they would take them.
The take away? It’s time for governments to see the diaspora for what they are: investors with the knowledge and skills to make a lasting difference in their countries of origin as well as their chosen homes. “We, the diaspora, we care about the continent. I would like to see the governments of Africa care about the diaspora,” Negash said. Because, truly, they have the power to implement change.
This conversation with Almaz Negash is a part of a speaker series, #HeiferTogether, which is about the state of farmers around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the live, 20-minute virtual conversations, Ferrari talks to experts about the present and future of our global food and farming systems, small farming in the United States, tech in agriculture, farming as it relates to the environment, and more.