RCA Flag
RCA Flag
Connecting Africa’s Skilled Professionals
RCA Flag

ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.

Library of Articles


Image In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the year beginning on 1 January 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent.

According to the UN Resolution, this proclamation was made “with a view to strengthening national actions and regional and international cooperation for the benefit of people of African descent in relation to their full enjoyment of economic, cultural, social, civil and political rights, their participation and integration in all political, economic, social and cultural aspects of society, and the promotion of a greater knowledge of and respect for their diverse heritage and culture”.

The Resolution also encourages member states, UN agencies - within their respective mandates and existing resources - and civil society to make preparations for and identify possible initiatives that can contribute to the success of the Year.

So 2011 has been designated as our Year. What are we going to do with it?

The African Diaspora

Much has been written and debated about the African Diaspora, including who exactly forms this Diaspora; those with historical ties to the continent through slavery or migration or those African nationals who are currently living outside their continent of origin? The UN Resolution refers to people of ‘African descent’ and as that covers anyone who has a present day or historical connection to Africa, that should put an end to that particular argument.

But while the word has become useful a shorthand, we need to bear in mind that ‘Diaspora’ is better seen as a blanket term that covers a huge diversity of people and communities of African descent living and working outside the continent in a range of skilled and unskilled capacities. While some Diaspora came out of Africa centuries ago, others left only in recent years.

Instead of debates about who is what, the bigger worry should be that the migration of skills and expertise from the continent via the Diaspora is still hurting Africa. My hope is that if this ‘Year’ achieves nothing else, it serves as a reminder to those of us outside the continent that we have to find ways to make up for our absence.

Because there is no way to pretend that the migration of African scientists (an estimated 200,000 are working in the United States alone), doctors (of the 120 to 150 doctors that Ghana trains each year, for example, an equal number are lost to migration) and teachers isn’t affecting Africa’s chances of development. The number of Africans living outside the continent has doubled in a generation and the flood of technical and managerial talent continues to flow.

This frequently cited brain drain matters because despite the many areas for investment that the African continent offers, a key factor for every potential investor is how that investment will be managed, i.e. how skilled are those to whom they are entrusting their hard earned (or hard raised) finances?

Countering Brain Drain with Brain Gain

The good news is that a number of economies across Africa are registering positive and sustained growth while investment into Africa – both foreign and domestic – is far less of a hard sell than it was a few years ago. Sectors such as banking and retail have expanded rapidly while technology has brought a boom in sectors such as telecommunications, creating supply chain and ancillary businesses and a raft of new entrepreneurs.

Over the next 20 years, Africa’s economy is predicted to grow at an average rate of over 7% and the rate of return on foreign investment into the continent is now greater than for any other developing region. Over the past 10 years, sub-Saharan Africa has produced six out of the ten most rapidly expanding economies, in countries such as Nigeria, Rwanda, Mozambique and Angola.

Foreign direct investment into sub-Saharan Africa grew by 17% last year and, with a market of one billion people, the potential buying power that Africa offers makes the continent a crucial and as yet untapped route for global growth.

What’s also reassuring is that a significant part of Africa’s economy and business landscape today has been directly impacted by the influence and participation of those in the Diaspora. Progressive multinationals often look overseas for experienced African talent to integrate into their leadership teams within the continent and professionals of African descent, once part of the Diaspora, have returned to Africa and made their mark with the establishment of new businesses that are creating much needed employment.

And if the number of African Diaspora networks, professional and hometown associations, alumni, diaspora conferences and volunteer initiatives taking place in Europe and the USA are anything to go by, many more Africans outside the continent are working hard to engage in the continent’s development and make their contribution felt.

Show Me the Money

When it comes to money, Africans in the Diaspora are no slouches. Through remittances sent by migrants to their home countries, people of African descent are sustaining families, businesses, education, construction and even national economies.

There is no accurate figure for the amount of money sent home each year and recent estimates of the total remittances by African migrants into the continent range wildly from US$10-40 billion. In 2007, the Bank of Ghana announced that Ghanaians living abroad contributed about US$2 billion to the economy through remittances.

Global Citizens

One of the stated reasons for the UN’s decision for designating this Year is to invite countries to re-examine their engagement with their citizens of African descent. Africans abroad can suffer the effects of marginalisation, discrimination and even undue pressure to relinquish or dilute their cultural heritage – as if maintaining one’s language and celebrating one’s history is somehow incompatible with being a good citizen of one’s adopted land.

While we can’t minimise the impact of some of these attitudes, many Africans overseas manage to deal with these issues and to achieve a degree of success despite them. So, if I may borrow (and mangle) the words of John F. Kennedy, it strikes me that we should be asking not what our host countries can do for us but rather what we can do for our countries of origin.

Active or Passive

As a globalised talent pool, people of African descent can and do make an enormous contribution to Africa’s development. But if, as Africans, we are to get away from the more general perception of always having things done for us rather than by us, perhaps this is the year to start making this clear. Africa has long been positioned as the continent that needs saving and the African brand has been associated with helplessness, corruption, poverty and inertia for decades. With the immense talents of Africans within and outside the continent, this is a position that should affront our sense of pride and dignity.

Africa will only ever be saved by Africans because we are the only ones who, when the chips are down, will ever really give a damn. Anyone watching the political posturing by developed countries in response to the liberation struggles taking place in North Africa will understand that these countries act according to their own best interests, despite what they may say. It’s time that Africans started to do the same and to focus on what’s best for their continent.

The importance of remittances and skills programmes to our countries of origin, beyond the financial support they offer, show something much more significant. They demonstrate that people of African descent continue to care about what happens to those within the continent.

If the International Year for People of African Descent is not going to be just an annualised version of National Best Friends Day or Volunteer Day or another of these ‘days’ that we are inundated with via email, we each need to take personal responsibility for making it count. Rather than looking to governments and aid agencies to arrange events and celebrations for us, we should take responsibility for leveraging this ‘Year’ into something significant and sustained.

Let’s all think about what we can do and how we can reach out, connect with and contribute to some of the fantastic initiatives out there. It’s time to reconsider our stance on investing in Africa and revisit opportunities to share our skills and our time. You can take an African out of Africa, but you can’t take away what makes them African. It’s our Year – let’s use it.





Welcome to the new, upgraded ReConnect Africa website.
Please help us provide you with information relevant to your needs by completing the fields below (just this once!)