Based in Silicon Valley in northern California, the African Diaspora Network is a non-profit organization founded ten years ago by Almaz Negash, an Eritrean refugee who fled her country of birth in 1984 during the country’s war with Ethiopia to rebuild her life in the United States. One of the organization’s aims is to find ways how at least part of remittance funds sent home by the African diaspora can be put to productive use through investment. The network’s flagship event is the annual African Diaspora Investment Symposium.
Negash has seen a shift in attitude in Silicon Valley from how to help Africa to how to invest in Africa, evidenced in some of the big-name sponsors of this year’s symposium: SAP, VMware, Facebook, eBay, Johnson & Johnson, and EY. Some companies have gone further, such as VMware, which hosted a delegation from Ethiopia last year, and Google, which has opened an artificial intelligence lab in Accra, Ghana.
Why It Matters
A World Bank report revealed money sent by the African diaspora to their home countries in sub-Saharan Africa reached a record US$46 billion in 2018, a 15% increase from the previous year. Were remittance a single economy, it would have been the twelfth-best-performing one in Africa, just behind the Democratic Republic of the Congo and ahead of Côte d’Ivoire. Most of this money goes straight to family members to help them buy basic necessities, care for children, or save up to eventually seek employment abroad as well. Tapping into these funds for investment purposes would be a net benefit to all involved: it would give the diaspora greater influence in how Africa develops, it would establish long-term economic benefits for family and friends living in Africa, it would ease the financial burden on national governments and multinational corporations for initial groundbreaking on large projects, and it would open up new markets as Africa’s population continues to grow over the next half-century.