What Is The African Diaspora’s Responsibility Towards Africa?

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What Is The African Diaspora’s Responsibility Towards Africa?

From CompareAfrique.com:

We asked some of our readers to provide their thoughts on what they thought the African Diaspora’s responsibility towards Africa is and here are some select responses:For some, it was a question of defining who gets to be in the African Diaspora. Marissa explains:

“Who is part of the Diaspora, and how far does this responsibility reach? I’m part of the African Diaspora; I’m of African-American and Afro-Jamaican descent, so is my responsibility to Africa any more or any less than someone whose parents emigrated from Ghana in the 1980s? Who decides?”

“I’ve dedicated much of my (nascent) career to Africa-focused service, but I have done so out of a sense of responsibility to humanity and to high-need communities–not out of a particular sense of responsibility to the continent or my heritage. I feel a social and professional commitment to the black world, but this commitment is not in competition with my responsibility to other communities and struggles, and I don’t feel that my skin color or lineage should dictate an automatic “responsibility” to take certain actions and decisions. If I did, I would probably be living in Detroit or Kingston, and not in Dakar.”

  • Marissa Jackson, Attorney, 27 (Hamilton (Bermuda), Detroit, Evanston, Chicago, New York City, London, Dakar)

Some respondents reiterated that although Africans in the Diaspora are in a strategic position to aid development, the decision to do so is a personal choice:

“I think the Diaspora is gifted with a unique point of view that gives us a unique insight into both worlds we occupy. That gift is not to be wasted! We are well positioned to impact the way Americans interact with Africa. We’re also well positioned to represent African interests in spaces and forums where African voices aren’t represented. So in many ways, our responsibility is what we decide to make it. It’s a choice of taking advantage of our gift, or not.”

  • Stephanie Yawa de Wolfe, Associate Program Officer, 25 (Dakar, Abidjan, Yaoundé, Bamako, Bujumbura, Dar es Salaam, Charlottesville, London, Washington D.C.)

“It should be a personal and sincere motivation to do whatever you think would help, out of interest for the other and not oneself.  It is not a responsibility imposed on you by others’ expectations, but a responsibility that you have to develop on your own, on a personal and human level, no matter if you are part of a Diaspora group or not.”

  •  Ferdaouis Bagga, Program Assistant, 24 (Washington DC, Orlando, Charleston, Abu Dhabi)

“Given how diverse the African Diaspora is, it’s important to remember that we all have different ties to the continent. We can all make an impact in our own way. For some it might be going back to the continent, studying the realities on the ground and serving as a bridge between the West and the country we are working in. Some may decide to move back and use their skills to start enterprises on the ground that have no connection to the West. Lastly some may choose to stay in the West and can be global ambassadors for their countries regardless of their professions, which can help to provide opportunities for non-Africans to re-evaluate their beliefs about the continent and provide opportunities for investment. I personally want to move back to Cote d’Ivoire one day but I think the African man or woman who goes into finance and sways the venture capital community in the west to invest in the continent can be just as effective as those of us who want to move back. We will all have different ways of contributing based on our background and circumstances.

  • Bita Diomande, Entrepreneur, 28 (Abidjan, Islamabad, New Delhi, Ann Arbor, New York, Washington D.C. , Boston)

“We Diasporans are human. We struggle, we love, we dream, we make practical decisions. Some Diasporans decide to return home because they want to create the kind of society that would not have pushed them away. Many relocate because they honestly miss being Oga, Sir, or Mummy in the small elite circles of a major African city. Some Diasporans start businesses and nonprofits in Houston and NYC out of a sense of patriotism, perhaps fueled by the legitimate desire to no longer be bored. Yet there are plenty of us who want a decidedly adequate life in a western suburb where we can cook with palm oil and yell at our kids in peace, the extent of our civic responsibility being remittances to family and the occasional trip to Lagos. I believe the world is a little more pleasant when individuals think beyond their own self-interest to contribute to a better society. But I also believe the decision to make “home” a better home is one that most people, no matter where they hail from, have to reflect upon and choose freely. If Africans need to take any responsibility for Africa, it should be because that may be the beautifully human thing to do, not because it is “Africa.””

  • Ahuoiza, 30, Philanthropic Advisor (Lagos, Philly, West Mamprusi, Washington D.C.)

“Whether it’s through the use of newly-acquired skills or financially, the African Diaspora has the responsibility to contribute to Africa in any way they can. Doing so should not be a matter of obligation to the continent, but rather as a way to ameliorate the very problems that caused many of us to emigrate from the continent.”

  • Love Ghunney, Management Consultant, 26 (Accra, Capetown, Dakar, Brussels, Chicago, Washington D.C., New York City)

“I don’t think that the African Diaspora has a specific responsibility towards Africa. However, I think that we should feel a sense responsibility towards seeing Africa reach her full potential, especially for those of us who hope to return to a progressive and safe environment someday.”

  • Olufunmilola Oduyeru, 24, Policy and Communications Assistant, Office of the Missouri Secretary of State (Missouri, Ikeja)

“I don’t see the responsibility as a duty, but see it more as a calling – a “desire”. To me it does not feel like an obligation or something incumbent upon me. Instead, why wouldn’t I? Why should I not be in a position to help people more like me? Just like Africa is huge and multi-faceted, the Diaspora is as well. As long as we are collaborating together and not duplicating efforts then we can be more effective.”

  •  Adeola Olagunju, Editor, 26 (Abuja, Zaria, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Newark, Delaware, Paris)

Some held that the Diaspora does have a responsibility to a continent that has given us so much:

“We didn’t build that—whether we came with parents who were diplomats, won or were selected for tax-funded scholarships, or flew in on tickets that our parents and guardians labored so hard for, most of us did not pave our own ways to the Americas. We owe a great deal to all of those individuals, communities, and institutions that got us where we are today. Our responsibility towards Africa stems from our gratitude and sense of interconnectedness. It is a responsibility to put our acquired knowledge, skills, and means to the socioeconomic betterment of our African communities so that those we left behind – and that some of us will eventually go back to live with – have a chance at a life worthy of their sacrifices.”

  • Thierry Uwamahoro, 31, International Development Practitioner (Makamba, Bujumbura, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C.)

“As members of the African diaspora, we have a responsibility to be listeners, collaborators, donors, and doers. We should be financially supporting our families back home and partnering with those who stayed home on initiatives that help improve the continent. While many of us have gained skills and expertise here, we will only be useful when we value the knowledge and experience of those who stayed home and therefore learned the context and have the cred.”

  • Kehinde Togun, Development Professional, 29 (Ibadan, Abuja, Asaba, Newark, Kigali, Erbil, Washington D.C.)

A few stressed that we must recognize how multifaceted and diverse the Diaspora is and also recognize the agency of Africans in Africa:

“The African Diaspora’s responsibility towards Africa is as diverse as the Diaspora itself. For some, their greatest contribution is to send remittances to their families. For others, their role is to facilitate the transfer of skills in their field to peers on the continent through scholarships, short-term teaching modules, or by moving back. Ultimately, the African Diaspora’s responsibility is to recognize the range of experiences and stories that exist on the African continent and to communicate the multifaceted nature of the continent to their host communities. In doing so, we broaden the narrative about who we are, create space to imagine the possibilities, and become active participants in building a stronger Africa.”

  • Anonymous (Feet in Washington D.C., Heart in the DRC)

“As Chimamanda so eloquently puts it, too often the African continent has a single story – a story of catastrophe that most have bought into because of the media coverage of Africa. The African diaspora is responsible for broadening this perspective by showing Africa and Africans as more than one thing – more than one story- over and over again until the definitive story of Africa starts to dissipate. Another equally important responsibility is to not assume that we are the sole agents of change. By ignoring the agency of Africans back home, we start to feed into another single story where Africans have no agency and/or are not able to understand their agency without the help of others. The writers of this story can either be those who look very different from Africans or those- such as us in the Diaspora – who look just like them. When we choose to see the agency of Africans who have not left the African continent, we refuse to write this single story and make the choice to acknowledge the strength, resilience and creativity already present. By doing this, we start to tell more than one single story of Africa.” 

  • Akugizibwe, Monitoring and Evaluation specialist, 28 (Kampala, Lagos, Khartoum, Dhaka, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Ann Arbor, Johannesburg, Washington DC)

“I think our primary responsibility is to be honest. Honest in our intentions as a Diaspora, and honest about our differences. This means saying ‘I don’t know’, even when no one would be able to identify your gap in knowledge. We should also continue to develop our own structures for interacting with continent and be willing to devote time and money to collaborate. Lastly, we should be always be critical of our personal and group logic. Even if we don’t agree with the validity of another’s beliefs, we should be humble enough to listen and understand the logic of that created those beliefs.”

  • Kumera Genet, Youth Policy, 29 (Austin, Addis Abeba, Lima, Washington D.C.)

“I think that if I’m successful here, then people can see me and know that Africans are not just a bunch of fighting poor people. If they see African have success here and see how diverse we are, then maybe people will start seeing Africa differently.”

  • Oluwatobi Olayemi, Student, 15 (Missouri)

Jerryanne enumerated that Africans in Africa have to be open to the contributions of the Diaspora:

“In my opinion, those who live on the African continent first have a responsibility to accept the Diaspora in all its shapes and forms.  A few countries like Ghana and Tanzania have made great strides in this direction, but we still have a long way to go.  As diverse as the continent of Africa is, even more complex is its Diaspora, which includes African nationals living overseas as well as men and women of African descent whose ancestors left the continent centuries ago and was dispersed across the globe.  Too often, well-intentioned Diasporians are met with skepticism or rejection when they try to contribute to African affairs.  Part of the rationale is that they are “not African enough” – too far removed from the issues.  However, if the Diaspora is fully embraced and accepted, this in turn can increase their affinity for the continent, inspire more positive contributions, and enhance the effectiveness of their efforts.”

  • Jerryanne Heath, Entrepreneur, 30 (Nassau, Philadelphia, Johannesburg, New York)

For others, it is about building the hope of a brighter future. A question of where to begin and a longing to see Africa do better and be better:

“We are a product of our environment, where we come from; therefore, it is not so much an obligation as it is a calling to never forget who we are and where we originate from. The bigger question is where to begin. In a continent fraught with corruption, political impasse, and perpetual public health crisis, how do we begin to heal a continent that seems bent of remaining a step behind the rest of the world?”       

  • Bukky Olatubosun, Medical Student, 28 (Lagos, Kansas-City, Orlando, Houston)

“My obligation to Africa is to my family, mostly through remittances and through advice. I don’t think that I can do anything to help with policy or work with the governments. They are all corrupt, and people forget that there are many Nigerians in Nigeria who are and have been working to change policies. People with PhDs, learned people who have not made a dent in changing Africa. I want Nigeria to change, I really do. However, to think that you can make a difference from London, America, or anywhere else is silly. Africans in Africa are the only people who can change Africa; I don’t know how we can help.”

  • Michael Olajide, Civil Engineer, 67 (Iléṣà, Fort Collins (Colorado), Ìbàdàn, Washington D.C., Missouri)

Finally:

“Responsibility is a very odd thing. Some people feel no obligation to do a thing unless there are negative and close personal repercussions for their potential inaction. In some instances however, and more often than one would think given the overwhelmingly cynical nature of human interaction, a person can feel a sense of obligation to another, a cause, an ideal or in this case, a country, that is purely based on a deeply elemental desire to see that person, or thing do well, even in the face of what might appear to be insurmountable challenges.”

“I believe most Africans in the Diaspora at some point or other, have felt some sense of frustration or loss when media airwaves buzz with yet another stain on the reputation of our beloved Continent, much in the same fashion Africans in the farthest reaches of the planet cheer at those more unusual instances when our people are set aglow by virtue of some feat of courage, perseverance, survival or even grand sportsmanship. This I believe is the first responsibility of every African; that thing inside you that causes you to rear up in a rictus of rage or roar or victory. Even if your action ends with your expressed consternation or you rise to the level of a true hero and set your fingers to the grindstone, as long as you feel the obligation to rise up with your hands on your head and a resounding shout of “Ha!!”, I know that you still feel obligated, responsible, alive…I know that Africa will continue to live. The death of this reaction, albeit positive or negative, signals the death of a sense of responsibility. The moment we in the Diaspora stop reacting, Africa will begin to die.”

  • Amarachi Utah, Policy Consultant-The World Bank Group (Lagos, Washington D.C.)

And to you reader, “What do you think is the African Diaspora’s responsibility towards Africa?

This article is part of the Diaspora series, which looks at the responsibility of the African Diaspora. The series will culminate at a panel discussion at the Institute for Policy Studies on May 22, 2013 on the very same topic. 

Link to website: http://www.compareafrique.com/what-is-the-african-diasporas-responsibility-towards-africa/

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