Monday on the Couch: The Role of Diaspora in Development Work

(By Mercy Mangwana)

On 31 May 2021, the Monday on The Couch discussion brought together three experts, Wadzanai Motsi-Khatai, Sannssi Cissé and Oheneba Boateng, from the African Diaspora community in Germany whose work includes doing research, working with start-ups, building communities and advocacy. The discussion, moderated by Elizabeth Maloba whose work involves facilitating cross-sectoral responses to complex challenges took place on the Bosch Alumni Network's Virtual Community Space.

The discussion started with an interactive session led by Elizabeth on Slido. This interactive session was aimed at capturing the importance of the discussion and the relationship of the discussion subject to the experiences of the audience.

Topics included:

  • Elevator speech by speakers introducing what they do and who they are
  • The speakers’ understanding of development - what is it? How has the dialogue evolved over time? Where are we now?
  • How the popular narrative in the development discourse of Africa Rising resonates with Oheneba
  • Dominant narratives - Africa Rising - tend to hide alternative narratives. What is the discourse within the Mittelstand, the African Start-Ups, and the Development Sector in Germany? Has Sannssi seen any shifts?
  • Considering the challenges we face, what role could the diaspora play in developing solutions? Both in Africa and in their adopted countries
  • What would need to change in the living conditions and perceptions of African Diaspora so that they can make valuable contributions to solution development? (remittances, impact of short term migration)
  • What practical steps can the audience take towards solution development?

Key Take-Aways from the Discussion

Development Corporation
Wadzanai

“Development is largely centred on providing aid and technical expertise (Mining, Infrastructural development) to the less privileged countries. It is an exchange between the Global North and the Global South. Within that framing there is a need to understand what development is all about”

Africa Rising Narrative: Not so good narrative
Oheneba

“The idea of Africa rising is linked to Africa meeting Western Standards of development. This narrative posits that Africa can only develop through learning from the West. That is problematic because it kills local initiatives, it destroys home-grown solutions”.

Are we so dependent on Development Aid and Cooperation?
Sannssi

“There is a new wave on Entrepreneurship though happening on a micro level, it is changing the popular narrative on what Africa needs to develop. However the Private sector in Europe has not changed its perceptions about Africa. There is a need to support entrepreneurship in Africa”.

Migration: a Complex Phenomenon

There are so many layers to Migration. Contrary to the popular belief that there is a huge rate of Migration from Africa to Europe there is a lot of intra Africa migration going on. It is difficult to change the perception of people wanting to migrate to Africa. It goes back to the basic issues of quality of life, ideologies and to basic bread and butter issues. Wadzanai added that there is however a need to change the systems that manage the movement of people.

There should be migration justice and balance in how Europeans move in and out of Africa and vice versa. Generally if there weren’t so many restrictions on movement of Africans into and out of Europe the migration situation will be so easier, people would freely return to their countries knowing they will not struggle to visit Europe. The panellists reiterated that there is a need for a whole movement system overhaul because there is a lot of colonial and racial ties to Migration.

Diaspora Remittances

The panel hammered that there is a need to recognise diaspora remittances because they are slowly stripping development aid. One key issue is that diaspora contributing to their own countries should be able to influence political processes like Voting. Diasporans are often denied influence as compared to donors who with their aid get to influence countries’ priorities and political processes.

A substantive report on this Monday on the Couch event is available as PDFbelow - including many additional quotes and graphics:

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Monday on the Couch is a monthly discussion format of the Bosch Alumni Network in which experts from our network present and discuss a current political or societal topic. Participation was free of charge. The event was held via Zoom.

Are you interested in contributing to a Monday on the Couch event? Please feel free to send us some lines with your idea at info@boschalumni.net!