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Mobilising Ethiopian Diaspora Capital and Knowledge Networks for Economic Growth and Transformation
The Ethiopian Diaspora currently estimated to exceed 2.5 million is poised to make critical contributions to the on-going economic development of Ethiopia

Mobilising Ethiopian Diaspora Capital and Knowledge Networks for Economic Growth and Transformation

By Makonnen Tesfaye, London, UK
Tigrai Online, August 16, 2015

Introduction and Summary of Presentation


A year after the ground breaking Festival Tigrai Diaspora Event, it is great to witness the just successfully concluded Oromo Diaspora Event and the currently ongoing Ethiopian Diaspora Event in Addis Ababa.  The planned Amhara Diaspora Event scheduled for next year is going to register yet another milestone in the effort to mobilise the Ethiopian Diaspora for economic development and transformation.  The context and timing of the presentation fits the diaspora events that have been taking place in recent years.  The purpose is to facilitate consultation and solicit feedback and comments from the Ethiopian Diaspora with a view to firming up policy recommendations on the development of Government Diaspora policy. The presentation is based on the preliminary findings of a major Ethiopian Diaspora Study undertaken by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development at the behest of the Federal Government of Ethiopia. The final report will be presented and discussed at multi-agency, multi-stakeholder conference to be organised by the FGOE in Addis Ababa at the end of the year before its official publication. The presentation makes use of the Study, but represents the view of none other than the author’s.

Over the last decade the policy discourse on the link between migration and development in general and the role of the Diaspora in economic development in particular has received increased interest from host and origin countries, while also figuring high on international policy agenda. Governments on both ends of the migration pole, international development agencies and the Diaspora members themselves increasingly recognise the importance of the Diaspora’s engagement with their countries of origin and are looking for ways to develop and foster this engagement. Indeed, in the case of Ethiopia, the Diaspora policy imperative is not so much whether the Diaspora can beneficially contribute to Ethiopia’s development, economic growth, or poverty reduction, but what optimal policy options and institutions can best maximise these relationships. The negative association of emigration with development has given way to a new paradigm where, instead of substituting migration with development, the focus now lies on finding ways to make migration contributes to development.  Thus, the emphasis is on the importance of transforming Ethiopian brain drain and brain waste to brain gain and brain circulation, but that the positive link between the Diaspora and development is not automatic because market forces alone will not establish the desired connection between migration and development without supporting productive infrastructure - economic, social as well as scientific and technological institutions.  What are also required are enabling political institutions, a stable macroeconomic and conducive financial environment, basic and essential infrastructure, efficient markets, a vibrant and competitive private sector, robust public-private partnerships, strategic co-ordination by development-orientated state and a stable and peaceful external environment.

The exodus of Ethiopians, in particular highly skilled emigrants to the global North and in recent years to the global South, or brain drain limits the country’s quest for rapid and sustainable economic development and associated objectives of reducing poverty and creating employment opportunities.  Ethiopian policy makers see their Diaspora as an asset, mitigating the negative effects of the emigration of skilled and talented migrants, and are increasingly proactive in engaging with their nationals abroad. The Ethiopian Government’s Diaspora policy overarching aims are to protect the welfare and rights of nationals and the Diaspora abroad; enable their economic participation at home; and facilitate their socio-economic and political integration in their host countries.

The Ethiopian Diaspora currently estimated to exceed 2.5 million (IOM Ethiopia, 2013), is poised to make critical contributions to the on-going economic development of the country in a number of sectors: knowledge and technology transfer, investment and trade, which are crucial for building productive capacities in Ethiopia.

These stylised diaspora economic data, not to mention the social and political imperatives, provide the rationale for a strategic diaspora policy and institutional response to unlock Ethiopian Diaspora knowledge and capital for the purpose of accelerating and sustaining economic growth, combating poverty and creating productive employment for the rapidly rising working-age population (UNCTAD LDCs Report, 2013).

Challenges, Prospects and the Way Forward

Finally, comments, feedback and questions are welcome and appreciated.

Please read the whole presentation by clicking here there is more graphs, charts and other statistical tables in support of the presentation.

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