Concerted effort is needed to exploit Diaspora contribution
Gemechu Tussa 06-26-17
The number of the Ethiopian Diaspora, residing overseas in different countries, including the United States of America, Europe, the Middle East, Australia and Africa countries is estimated at 2 million. Historical documents indicated that hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians have migrated to different countries throughout the world in search of work, business and educational opportunities.
Some people could also leave their homeland for political reasons, mainly during the totalitarian military regime. It is well known that thousands of Ethiopians have legally or illegally migrated to foreign countries to escape from the so called Red Terror that was unleashed by the Derge on the Ethiopian youth.
Ethiopians and citizens of Ethiopian origin have continued to relate to their families and relatives at home, despite the plight they had to sustain. They have been sending remittances to their families and continue to pay a visit to their homeland as the situation in Ethiopia is dramatically changed.
Ethiopians, particularly women and girls who migrated to Middle East countries have continued to maintain relatively closer contacts with their families and friends at home. Although they face a severe agony, they had to sustain in the hands of their employers so as to help themselves and their family at home. But that story was altogether changed. There are lots of opportunities at home that could encourage the Ethiopian Diaspora to be a beneficiary.
Despite a whole range of unfavorable circumstances of their destination countries, Ethiopians and citizens of Ethiopian origin have also contributed to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which is the flagship project of Ethiopian unity and a symbol of self reliance and sustainable development.
Over the last 15 years, thousands of Ethiopians in the Diaspora have tried to make use of the economic liberalization policies issued during and after the transition period to invest in Ethiopia. Based on the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy document, a Diaspora Policy was issued by the government in 2013.
The policy has the objective of building a strong relationship between the Diaspora and their country of origin and encouraging and facilitating conducive environment for their participation in the ongoing peace and democratic system building process to benefit their county.
At the same time, respecting their benefits for engagement and preserve their rights and interests abroad are the main objectives of the Policy. In that policy document, it is stated that Ethiopians in the Diaspora could play an important role in carrying out research and investing at home. Also, the policy document provides opportunities for the Diaspora to share their skills in their fields of specialization in various areas including trade, import, export and technology.
It is beyond doubt that Ethiopia is home to various cultural heritages and is rich in intangible and tangible cultural and religious artifacts. Its traditional costumes and cotton fabrics worn by various nations, nationalities and peoples in the country, traditional embroideries and ornaments made of silver, bronze and gold are yet to be promoted on the global market.
Ethiopia has quite a number of world class models and fashion designers who can engage in promoting the traditional clothes of various nations, nationalities and peoples in the country. With all professional capabilities and popularity, these people can engage themselves in investing in industrial parks that are deliberately established for this purpose.
While attaining huge financial benefits for themselves, those Ethiopians in the Diaspora can help to build the image of their motherland in different countries of their residence. In this regard, some attempts might have been made by individual Ethiopians in oversees, but more is to be desired in exploiting international opportunities.
Ethiopian nationals and citizens of Ethiopian origin can coordinate with government ministries and sector offices to organize international events or participate actively in such festivals to contribute their part in supporting Ethiopia’s expos that are periodically staged in foreign countries or here in the country.
Apart from the engagement in the above mentioned development undertakings; Ethiopians in the Diaspora have excellent opportunities to systematically mobilize foreign nationals who have already adopted thousands of children from Ethiopia.
Among other things, the Diaspora Policy encourages citizens in the Diaspora to participate in Ethiopia’s tourism industry, such as in tour operation and organizing multi-media products that are instrumental to enhance tourism in the country. Compared to the nation’s potentials, very little has so far been done to boost the country’s tourist industry. So, Ethiopian citizens overseas have multi-faceted opportunities to engage in tourism either individually and preferably in groups for instance by forming share companies.
On the other hand, Ethiopians and citizens of Ethiopian origin can effectively engage themselves to advocate for the return of historical relics that are the sole properties of the peoples of Ethiopia. Ethiopians in the Diaspora have ample opportunities of exposure to modern and advanced technologies and they can transfer them to their country, especially in the targeted investment focus areas favored by the government’s development strategy.
Moreover, Research on development policies of the country, both at macro and micro levels will help to further enrich development policies and strategies of the country. Citizens in the Diaspora can replicate their knowledge and skills to contribute their part; adding value to the nation development programs through sector oriented research that can help policy makers to chart out long term development strategies. Such involvement can specifically enhance the development industries that are geared towards manufacturing export standard commodities to close foreign exchange gaps.
The government has also been attempting to minimize unnecessary red tape that could easily discourage citizens in the Diaspora who have a genuine desire to invest in their country. However, Ethiopia needs further effort to meaningfully exploit the potentials of its citizens in the Diaspora. In this regard, a a concerted effort is needed by all Ethiopians at all levels to enhance Ethiopian Diaspora engagement in the country’s political, economic and social affairs.