It is BLOG ACTION DAY today and this year’s theme is as as unusual as it is thought provoking:
THE POWER OF WE
When I decided to participate the 2nd Ugandan Convention in the UK had just been concluded .
The various speakers told us how much we impact Uganda’s economy and they were here to ask us to consider formal investment specifically in government infrastructure projects and went as far as soliciting our views on the introduction of the Diaspora Bond.
I also noted something else that I can’t quite explain but perhaps would pass for a love hate relationship between the Ugandan Diaspora and the Government of Uganda.
On the one hand the Finance Minister announced the amounts of money the Ugandan Diaspora remit into the Ugandan economy each year is as much as $2billion and would like us to channel some of that into formal investment instead of consumption, whilst on the other, the technocrat from Uganda’s immigration department spelt out some hard truths regarding our rights or lack of them in Uganda. As a Ugandan in the diaspora I am not allowed to hold dual citizenship unless I part with $400 registration fee and it is illegal for me to own land in Uganda, in fact any Uganda citizen can lay claim on that land.
This notion of the Power of the Diaspora to impact development has been debated heavily in recent years and the Diaspora has been courted by both host and home countries.
At the Ugandan Convention UK, an opposition MP from Uganda urged the Diaspora to use this power wisely to bring in the right legislators. Reading between the lines he seemed to imply that Ugandans in the diaspora have the power to influence outcomes at the ballot box and this is achieved by paying relatives and friends to vote a certain way!
Prior to his death and having failed to secure the African Union Presidency, Gaddafi called a Diaspora conference dabbed the Historic Conference – A DECENT LIFE IN EUROPE OR A HAPPY RETURN HOME, in his view African leaders had to do more for the Diaspora specifically, negotiate a better life for Africans in Europe and take an active role in lobbying European leaders for rights and called on us Africans to observe the law of the land of our adopted countries in a nutshell that with all rights come obligations and we must observe these.
Here in the UK, the Department For International Development (DFID) has recognised this Diaspora power and held a roundtable discussion at which I was present. The key question for discussion was:
How can governments and donors help drive the scale and development impact of engagement by diaspora investors and entrepreneurs?
What is this the notion of The Power of the African Diaspora to effect change and impact development on the African continent?
For an insight, I reached out to Community and Thought leaders within a diaspora with a central question
What can we do collectively to effect change and impact development on the continent?
Ronke Lawal Winner of “Inspiring Leader” Precious Awards 2011
We need to be consistent as a group in how we work together, work for others and work for ourselves. This consistency needs to come from a place of excellence in all areas, we can no longer accept poor standards if we are to develop greatness on the continent. Better communication channels, shared ideas, integrity and transparency are the only ways forward if development is to really take place.
One thing that we should do is not be shy about the work we do. There is nothing more encouraging than our collective might at work for our continent. I used to think perhaps it is arrogant to write about the work that I am doing, but quickly realized that no one else can tell the story of my struggle to succeed better than I can. So why not be my own narrator. Years from now, future generations won’t wonder how Africa rose to greatness. No one can distort the facts because they are recorded for all to see. So be loud. Be brash. Be confident. Without that, we can’t inspire others to join us.
Onyekachi Wambu Engagement and Policy Director -AFFORD
Free our minds
We need to pull together, get over ourselves and need to be right and work together for a change that makes things happen”