Memorandum submitted by the Africian Foundation
for Development (AFFORD)
1. As an organisation with a mission to
expand and enhance the contribution that Africans in the diaspora
make to Africa's development, the African Foundation for Development
(AFFORD) welcomes this opportunity to comment on the White Paper
"Eliminating World Poverty: Making Globalisation Work for
the Poor" (Cm 5006) published on 11 December 2000. There
is much to support in the White Paper that contains many welcome
policy initiatives, not least because it places firmly on the
agenda the need for a regime of global governance commensurate
to the challenges of managing processes of globalisation in the
interests of equity, justice and human-centred development.
2. In this memorandum we seek to draw attention
to a significant area not substantially addressed in the White
Paper, namely the causal link between globalisation and the movement
of people and the development policy implications that flow from
this link. Our comments here draw upon our earlier submission
("Globalisation and development: a diaspora dimension",
and with references omitted from this memorandum) to the Government
during consultations prior to the White Paper's publication. This
link between contemporary processes of globalisation and migration
is developed convincingly by research by the International Labour
3. A key feature of globalisation today
is the rapid flow of capital to what investors consider are the
most profitable (especially in the short-term) centres of production.
In previous eras, people were encouraged (or forced as in the
case of slaves and indentured labour) to move to where the work
was. But, according to the ILO, increasing hostility towards migrants
in prosperous countries notwithstanding, the social disruption
caused by economic restructuring is likely to shake more people
loose from their communities and encourage them to look abroad
4. According to the World Bank, between
2 million and 3 million people emigrate each year, the majority
of them to just four countries: the United States, Germany, Canada,
and Australia, in that order. The World Bank reports that a total
of 130 million people now live outside their country of birth,
a number that has been rising at the rate of 2 per cent a year.
Even though this total number is small in relation to the world
population as a whole, the majority of migrants are concentrated
in North America, Western Europe, Oceania, and the Middle East,
giving them a far greater impact than the absolute numbers alone
would suggest. In North America and Western Europe the migrant
stock grew at 2.5% a year between 1965 and 1990, far outstripping
growth of indigenous populations.
5. The 1991 British Census revealed that
just over three million people or 5.5 per cent of the population
could be classified as belonging to an ethnic minority group.
Numerically significant groups identified in 1991 included Indian
(nearly 28 per cent), Black Caribbean (nearly 16 per cent), Pakistani
(nearly 16 per cent), Black African (7 per cent), Bangladeshi
(5.5 per cent), and Chinese (just over 5 per cent). Over half
(56.2 per cent) the people of minority ethnic origin in 1991 lived
in the South East, 44.6 per cent lived in Greater London, 14.1
per cent in the West Midlands. Many people in Britain who are
of minority ethnic origin (that we refer to here as diasporas)
maintain active links with their regions of origin, often supporting
the development of these regions.
6. AFFORD's research suggests that diaspora
engagement in Africa can take a number of forms: (a) person-to-person
transfers of money, consumer goods, and even larger items such
as cars, mainly to family, immediate and extended; (b) community-to-community
transfers for constructive but sometimes for destructive purposes;
(c) identity building/awareness raising in current home about
ancestral home either with other members of the same community
or with wider groups; (d) lobbying in the current home on issues
relating to the ancestral home either of current home politicians
or visiting ancestral home leaders; (e) trade with, and investment
in, the ancestral home (including via electronic commerce); (f)
transfers of intangible resources such as information, knowledge,
values and ideas; (g) support for development on a more "professional"
basis through non-governmental organisations, associations and
structured programmes; payment of taxes in the ancestral home.
7. Even in straight monetary terms, this
diaspora engagement in regions of origin is by no means insignificant,
even if it is under-reported because probably no more than 50%
of remittances go through official or formal channels. In 1989
the IMF estimated that the $65 billion of official transfers dwarfed
the $46 billion in official development assistance (ODA) to developing
countries. We need also to consider that in the ensuing 11 years,
migration has increased while ODA has decreased. More recent research
suggests that remittances accounted for between $70 and $75 billion
a year in the early 1990s, representing a large proportion of
world financial flows, second in value only to oil among aggregate
international trade and financial transactions. According to the
World Bank, that $75 billion figure is 50 per cent more than ODA.
Arguably, therefore, diasporas taken as a whole are more significant
"aid donors" than are official aid agencies and governments.
8. With unemployment, underemployment, social
exclusion, and poverty increasing in many developing countries,
access to remittances can be an essential part of poor people's
strategy to secure a livelihood for themselves. This fact is not
lost on developing country governments. Indeed, in a recent quip
made in response to a query about his views on Ugandans abroad,
President Musevini described his compatriots in the diaspora as
Uganda's "greatest export" (now more significant than
coffee) as they send an estimated $400 million home each year.
Quite possibly, these transfers by migrants tackle poverty at
the point where it is felt more directly, effectively and efficiently
than numerous other development initiatives spearheaded by governments,
multilateral agencies and non-governmental organisations.
9. However, significant as they are, remittances
are not the only way that diasporas contribute to development
in their regions of origin. Our submission to the Government documented
a case study of successful efforts by the widely dispersed Somaliland
diaspora, working with a range of actors in Somaliland itself,
to establish the University of Somaliland.
10. Seen in this light, it is rather disappointing
that prior to publication of its White Paper, the Government did
not conduct research into what it perceives as the balance between
the positive elements of migration (remittances, transfer of skills
and knowledge) and the cost to developing countries in terms of
skills shortages. There is already considerable research on these
issues upon which the Government could have built to develop significant
policy initiatives in this important area.
11. The World Bank, for instance, notes
that "cross-border migration, combined with the `brain drain'
from developing to industrial countries, will be one of the major
forces shaping the landscape of the 21st century, for at least
three reasons. First, migration is causing dramatic shifts in
the demographic profiles of both industrial and developing countries.
Second, the movement of highly skilled people from the developing
world affects low-income countries and recipient countries alike.
Third, the international diasporas have tremendous business potential."
12. Our concern is that the relationship
between migration, globalisation and development is too far down
the Government's list of priorities.
13. Moreover, this omission in the White
Paper robbed the Government of the opportunity to build on the
earlier policy enunciated in its November 1997 White Paper on
International Development, Eliminating World Poverty: A Challenge
for the 21st Century. In that White Paper, the Government
committed itself to "build on the skills and talents of migrants
and other members of ethnic minorities within the UK to promote
the development of their countries of origin". It is surprising,
therefore, to hear that three years later the Government is doing
no more than undertaking more research on these issues.
14. AFFORD and partner organisations welcomed
this commitment in memoranda to the International Development
Committee, however, we are disappointed at the slow progress in
translating this commitment into concrete action.
15. Migration, in our view, has received
a bad press (both literally and metaphorically) in recent times.
Our submission to the Government put the case for a more positive
and balanced view of the complex processes and impact of migration.
Ignoring it will not make the phenomena disappear and may lead
to bad or ineffective policy. (For instance, World Bank analysis
and prescriptions appear not to take into account these transfers
or how they could be made more developmentally effective.)
16. In the wake of the publication of this
important White Paper, we urge the International Development Committee
to establish that the Government does have a clear, coherent (cross-Departmental)
policy on migration and Britain's ethnic minorities that enhances
in every way possible the Government's overall goal of eliminating
world poverty in the context of the challenges and opportunities
posed by globalisation. Key questions in this regard are what
views the Department for International Development (DFID) takes
on the diverse ways that Britain's ethnic minorities engage in
and support overseas development, whether DFID has a strategy
for engaging with ethnic minorities, what plans it has for this
engagement, and what indicators of success it will look for.
17. Arguably, the need for so-called "joined-up"
government has never been stronger. Many of the initiatives that
would make contributions by members of Britain's ethnic minorities
to the Government's efforts to make globalisation work for the
poor are amenable to policy initiatives by various government
departments including DFID, the Home Office, and the Department
for Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS).
18. The conditions under which diaspora
groups exist within the UK shape to significant degrees their
propensity and capacity to contribute to development in their
regions of origin. Diaspora with access to jobs that reflect their
educational attainment, skills and experience, the ability to
travel freely, and an overall degree of integration within the
host society will be able to play more effective roles as development
players than those marginalised and stigmatised by laws, policies
and hostile public opinion. Responsibility for these issues lie
primarily with the Home Office.
19. We welcome the Government's commitment
to ensure that efforts to plug skills gaps in Britain by recruiting
skilled professionals from developing countries do not undermine
those countries' development efforts. However, a key question
upon which the Government's silence is troubling is what about
those members of minority ethnic groups who are already here and
engaging in development efforts in their regions of origin? Clearly
not all the migrants of minority ethnic origin in this country
were recruited as skilled professionals (in 1991 nearly half,
46.8 per cent, of people of minority ethnic origin were born in
the UK). For instance, some came here to acquire skills and although
they have stayed, they have maintained active links with their
regions of origin.
20. For these reasons, we feel that the
Government's response to the mobility of people as spelt out in
the White Paper is too narrow. We seek reassurance, that it remains
committed to its earlier intention of working with migrants and
ethnic minorities to develop their regions of origin.
21. Given the Government's professed concern
that outflows of skilled people from developing countries exacerbate
skills shortages, scope exists to now work with skilled migrants,
developing country governments, multilateral agencies, and regional
organisations to address the problem using flexible schemes that
make use of knowledge networks, temporary assignments, etc. For
instance, in seeking to tackle the brain drain phenomenon and
build human capacity in the region, the United Nations Economic
Commission for Africa has devised a strategy in partnership with
other agencies to reach out to skilled Africans abroad. The British
Government could support (and encourage other development agencies
to support) this and other initiatives. In passing, we note that
estimates suggest that expatriate staff participating in technical
assistance programmes in Africa alone cost some $4 billion a year,
finding ways to make more effective use of Africans abroad could
enable more effective and efficient use of overseas development
22. Our submission pointed to other areas
of government activity where joining up different strands of policy
would likely add value to the overall effort to eliminate world
poverty by managing globalisation more effectively (in relation
to ethnic minority diasporas). These include policies by the DCMS
to maximise efforts to generate support for development among
the public in Britain via appropriate media policies and schemes;
Home Office reform of the voluntary sector to ensure that organisations
run by people of minority ethnic origin receive the support and
recognition their work deserves; Home Office reform of the voluntary
sector to tackle institutional racism within international development
agencies (part of the UK's voluntary sector); use of information
and communications technologies to improve communications and
co-operation between ethnic-national diasporas and their home
regions in line with efforts by the Prime Minister's Office to
bridge the digital divide.
23. However, in conclusion we return to
a fundamental point. The Government must first take a more rounded
view of migration (in all its facets) and understand the diverse
ways (including negative ones) that diasporas engage in development
in their regions of origin. The issue requires serious consideration
and engagement by the Government, with coherent policies that
reflect its significance. We hope that the International Development
Committee will urge the Government to clarify its position in
this area (and if necessary to give it a higher priority) and
set a clear timetable and plan of action for broadening its attempts
to manage globalisation in equitable ways to include consideration
of the important actual and potential role of diasporas in development.
African Foundation for Development (AFFORD)
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