IN PROGRESS: Not Complete
The following report is an assessment on local perceptions of “The Diaspora.” This assessment would not be possible without the diligent work of the ReTurn Ambassadors serving in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Ghana, and Burundi. While the sentiments within this report reflect the four contexts listed above, there are similar sentiments all around the world. At ReTurn, we believe that diaspora reengagement and reintegration is impossible without local engagement as well. This assessment is one of the many steps we are taking to learn about how locals feel, what locals want, and how to bring both locals and their diaspora together. To partake in upcoming reports, make sure to get engaged with us on Facebook.
Due to conflicts, a lot of Burundi’s diaspora are a result of forced migration. Many of Burundi’s diaspora fit under one of the following categories: Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and Returned Refugees. While organizations like The International Organization for Migration are supporting the Government of Burundi in its efforts to increasingly engage with the Burundian diaspora in national development, many of Burundi’s abroad have started groups to keep themselves both connected and engaged. Here what ReTurn Ambassador Arthur Marthusha had to say about the diaspora from a local’s perspective:
“In our country we cannot deny the impact of the diaspora in the field of development. In 2015, there were political problems that caused a lot of deaths and especially on young workers. This political crisis has damaged many things in our country, the famine has attacked the various families — some fled the country, there were also houses that were destroyed. The country has had serious problems in many areas to find [funds]. Things were very difficult, and our local money has lost its value and the goods have increased prices which has made a difficult life for the citizens of our country. The salary was not enough to cope well with this difficult life. The role of the diaspora has been of great importance to finally help things return to normal order. The way is still long, but we cannot deny the action that was done by the diaspora during the crisis because young people who had the incentive to self-finance have found help.”
Watch the video below to hear from Irakoze Dieudonné a member of the Burundian diaspora who encourages others to get connected and even return to Burundi
Like many other countries, the opinions of locals concerning their diaspora isn’t as uniform as you might think. In Ghana, perceptions often differ based on location. The Ghanaian ReTurn Ambassadors have shared their perspective of the diaspora from the local’s perspective. Each of them speaks about the contexts in Ghana they are familiar with.
“I believe that people in the diaspora are welcomed by the local people here in Ghana. However, I would describe this as a “careful acceptance.” Whilst the diaspora may speak the same languages as local people, there are significant cultural barriers and differences in upbringing. Many Ghanaians have left the country to pursue various missions across the world and return to start businesses and join the government. Notable returnees include the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and the late Kofi Annan. However, some local people believe that the time spent away can negatively impact the “diasporan” as they can “lose” some of their heritage. In many other cases, diaspora reintegration is encouraged as a brain gain mechanism. Foreign education is highly valued in Ghana, therefore it is often an assumption that those who have been educated in the US, Europe and Asia can positively impact society and the economy.”
Paul Louis Bempong:
“In Ghana, locals see the diaspora as more privileged—having the opportunity to quality education abroad. We often hear some diaspora come to admit this which makes locals dissatisfied with the kind of education system we have down here. Often, locals see the diaspora as selfish and greedy simply because the diaspora hardly show interest to help uplift the education standards even in their communities. The few smart diasporas rather take advantage of the situation by establishing high standard educational institutions and charge exorbitant fees. This worsens the situation because it always favors the higher earners.”
Diaspora of the northern part of Ghana are worshipped as they are seen to be very fortunate and special. The hardship is so much that migrating to the Accra, the capital of Ghana, is seen as a life changing opportunity. How much more moving to the western world? Some of these diasporas take advantage of this situation to lord themselves over the locals knowing very well they can't stand up to them. Others also voluntarily or involuntarily disregard the customs and practices of the indigenes due to the exposure they've had elsewhere hence giving them the "arrogant" tag. If both parties can understand and respect each other’s values and customs, massive results can be achieved!
In 2017, the Nigerian government reported that an estimated 17 million Nigerians are living abroad. The Nigerian Diaspora can be found in many parts of the world, but the largest populations of Nigerians can be found in the UK, USA and South Africa. Here is what ReTurn Ambassador Emmanuel Osoteku had to say about the Nigerian diaspora from the local’s perspective:
“In Nigeria, the average citizen often believes that the diaspora [or becoming one] is the solution to their problems and if they can just cross over, they will succeed. This mindset, I believe, is caused due to the hardship in the country due to the misuse of Government funds by some corrupt leaders. Most people in the diaspora are seen as fortunate and successful here in Nigeria when they see these people post on Facebook and Instagram. I am of the opinion that this is a misconception and false perception of their lives in the diaspora.
Lastly, people migrating are often seen as the rich people who have stolen our money and want to run away. However, I believe that most of the brain drain from Nigeria in the diaspora are one of the best abroad. Nigeria has produced amazing personalities doing exploits in the diaspora. I believe it's time for Nigeria to have a reorientation for all her citizens and through the ReTurn initiative we can achieve more in Nigeria.”
Zimbabwe's diaspora are being asked to reengage with the country and help the government turn the economy around. In the past, some members of Zimbabwe's diaspora have paid an active role abroad galvanizing other diasporas. More work needs to be done to engage Zimbabwe's diaspora.
Hear from ReTurn Ambassador Victor T. Nyanhete on his perception of Zimbabwe's diaspora:
“Being a citizen of Zimbabwe for the past 26 years, I have always felt at home and enjoyed the benefits of peace and stability. I got my first opportunity to travel out of my country 3 years ago and I was struck by the number of fellow Zimbabweans who had settled out of our beloved country and this was largely due to the decline in economy of Zimbabwe hence people seeking better opportunities. One question which stuck in my mind was are they really happy in the foreign country? How is the relationship with people at home as they only depend on them because of finances and nothing more.
It made me dig deeper and start engaging them in honest conversations which made me realize that integration in the foreign community is [nearly] impossible and also fitting back into the community back home is also a lot call due to gap. Hence there is a dire need to work and hear more stories from people and see how best reintegration can be done.”