Liberians In The Diaspora: Are They The Final Frontier Of Hope For Liberia’s Economic Development?

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By Edmund Bargblor

In today’s global economy, developing countries like Liberia and others in Africa must endeavor to engage their nationals in the diaspora to help with economic developments. Other countries like Israel, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, etc., have realized the importance of the diaspora’s economic role in fostering national development through its annual remittances and project oriented initiatives. Individuals in the diaspora, who enjoyed dual nationality, have become a blessing to their respective countries of origin.

The diaspora has become gold mines for most developing countries. Most countries are encouraging their nationals residing in developed countries to obtain naturalized status of their host countries.

‘The Economist,’ in its November 2011 issue, published an article, ‘The Magic of Diasporas’ outlined how migrant business networks are changing the world, especially in developing countries.

According to USAID report “many of Liberia’s educated elite either fled or were killed during the civil war. The educational system was demolished, and the country lost a generation in which to educate and train its citizens to make productive contributions to development progress. Government, the private sector, civil society and international partners still are desperately short of qualified local talent. The existing, small cadre of highly qualified and motivated leaders struggles to have policies and decisions carried out by a low‐paid workforce that often lacks basic literacy, numeracy and other critical work skills”. To be frank, Liberians with dual nationalities are seemingly, Liberia’s best hope when it comes to economic development (http: www.usaid.gov/)

Liberia-Western-Union-offices

The World Bank’s report of 2012, relevant to global remittances, pointed out that Liberians in the Diaspora out-beat per GDP other Africans living abroad by “remitting $378 million in 2012, an increase of $18 million from 2011 remittance of $360 million, a more than 31% of global remittances and third of Liberia’s GDP in 2012” (The New dispensation, 6 February 2013).

The ‘USD Explorer’ also, provided its statistical information relevant to the remittances received by Liberia during the period of 2011 through 2015. Liberia accordingly, received $360 million in 2011, $516 million in 2012, $383 million in 2013, $495 million in 2014, and $693 million in 2015 as remittances from other countries (here).

These statistics demonstrate and show that Liberia as a nation has benefited economically from its nationals in the diaspora; and this includes Liberians with dual nationality status.

If Liberia failed to accommodate her overseas nationals with dual nationality status, a generation from now, Liberia’s enormous potential will remain unfulfilled, and our beloved nation within the West African sub-region will remain a place where the few thrive in wealth and the many struggle in poverty.

China and India’s Strategies with respect to dealing with their respective diaspora

Let me reflect the following attributes, relevant to China and India as they relate to their engagements with their nationals residing in the diaspora.

Economist Devesh Kapur explored “the reasons that China and India historically differed so strongly in the nature of their respective Diasporas’ economic engagement. Chinese direct investment was twenty times the volume of India’s whereas, Indian remittances were seven times the Chinese in the 1990s.

Kapur outlined each of the following:

One: “The Indian diaspora was largely professional while the Chinese diaspora was more entrepreneurial. Hence although the former was well off in the aggregate (for instance it is one of the wealthiest ethnic groups in the U.S.), it did not have substantial numbers of high net worth individuals who would serve as potential investors.”

Second: “India was hostile to foreign investment until the early 1990s while China opened up a decade earlier.”

Third: “China, unlike India, did not have a strong capitalist class when it opened up – and hence faced little domestic opposition to incentives granted to diasporan (sic) investors.”

Finally: “local governments have played a much more proactive role in China relative to India, although this is changing in the latter. The involvement of Diaspora Indians in the software boom of the late 1990s has altered this equation to some extent. At least in this sector, Indian-born and Indian-origin entrepreneurs, in the United States particularly, acquired the capital and business connections to play an important role in foreign direct investment and technology transfer” (www.migrationinformation.org).

Liberian diaspora forming partnerships

Perhaps Liberians in the diaspora, need to join partnership with the initiatives of AFFORD, the African Foundation for Development. Accordingly, this organization started by African expats (short for expatriate) in the UK to broaden the diaspora’s contribution to African development.

Liberians in the diaspora could also explore the activities of an organization called International Entrepreneurship, (Intent). This is a Dutch nongovernmental organization which for over twelve years, has assisted expats in Holland to start business in their respective countries of origin. The NGO is ‘continually expanding its activities, which began in countries from which sizable populations in the Netherlands that emigrated from countries such as Ghana, Ethiopia, Morocco, Cape Verde, Sierra Leone and others’ (International Entrepreneurship—IntEnt,).

Conclusion

Liberians on the ground need to perceive the Liberian Diaspora as a national asset and not as an adversary. The engagement of citizens in the diaspora is certainly not a new phenomenon. Countries such as Israel, India, Ireland and China are constructively engaged and have led the field of reaching out to their nationals in the diaspora.

What is new, however, is the number of countries who are now realizing they have exciting possibilities if they can engage their overseas populations in innovative and creative ways. Few years ago, countries like Uganda, Indonesia and Vietnam have taken initiatives in this field.

Liberians in the diaspora need to also shy away from job seeking initiatives in the Liberian Government and form business partnerships. While the Liberian Government needs to harness the entrepreneurial drive of diaspora communities, especially those in the United States and the UK.

Global Economy

As I reflected in one of my articles in the Daily Observer, “Liberians in the Diaspora have the necessary academic and professional preparations, to help Liberia solve her problem of brain drain. The Government of Liberia needs to encourage all its nationals to return home. Closing the doors on others, due to their dual citizenship status is not in the best interest of the socio-economic development of the nation.

Other countries in Africa, Ghana for example, are increasingly engaged in strategies and programs to reverse the brain drain to retain skilled professionals at home. Perhaps, Liberia’s lawmakers need to understand and emulate the wisdom of Ghana, Nigeria and other countries within the sub-region and encourage dual citizenship participations at all levels of the Liberian Government (https://www.liberianobserver.com/opinion/have-liberians-with-dual-citizen become-de-facto-second-class-citizens-in-their-own-country-of-birth/).

The Liberian Government should now be endeavoring to identify and connect with highly skilled Liberian individuals in the diaspora and link them to national economic development projects. And if there are laws that might have the propensity to discourage investments from the diaspora, repeal such laws if they already exist.

Those in the diaspora, also must realize that criticizing the actions of government all the time is wrong and it is not in the best interest of the nation. The diaspora must also positively conduct a constructive engagement with government; must get involved with the affairs (not just politics) of our countries of origin. It is their duty and right to be part of it. Just because they are not living in the country, does not mean they should give up their rights to it.

Sometimes people in power may feel threatened with the involvement by the diaspora, but their insecurity or whatever reasons they may have, have nothing to do with those in the diaspora. A true patriot, should not feel intimidated, but rather, encourage and welcome such engagement. As explained above, such engagement, is in the best interest of Africa. Just analyze the case of Israel, perhaps the best example of it. The powerful lobbies continue to promote the interest of Israel all over the world. All those residing in the diaspora, are encouraged to invest and participate in the socio-economic and political participations of Israel.

It is laughable, ungrateful and shameful, when some Liberians on the ground (in Liberia), perceived their fellow brothers and sisters residing in the diaspora as foreigners. Ignoring the fact, that these so-called foreigners, continue to send thousands upon thousands of US dollars to their relatives through remittances annually. It should not and it is not, a burden to accept or encourage the participation of people that left their homeland for whatever reasons. Liberia belongs to all Liberians, both those the ground in Liberia and those residing in the diaspora.

There are hundred upon hundreds of children born to Liberian nationals presently residing in the Diaspora. These children with their dual nationalities and exposures could help Liberia to navigate her destiny through the twenty-first century. Democracy indeed, is built on informed citizen participation, especially those who have lived and practiced it in developed countries. The ideal of democracy is meaningful participation of an engaged and informed citizenry.

Leopold Senghor of Senegal was correct when he said: “To build a nation, to create a new civilization which can lay claim to existence because it is humane, we shall try to employ not only enlightened reason but also dynamic imagination.”

Indeed, Liberians in the Diaspora are undoubtedly the final frontier of hope for Liberia’s economic recovery and development.

HAPPY NEW YEAR (2019) To All!

The Author:
Mr. Edmund Zar-Zar Bargblor is an Educator & an Author. He can be contacted at: [email protected] He is also on Twitter and one of the administrators of The African Intellectual Forum on Facebook.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Our people back home are darn right idiots. They don’t see the value of our contribution to the Liberian economy. So why should we continue to send our money there when they don’t want us to be part of the country? I believe we should stop sending our hard earned money to those ungrateful relatives. Most Liberians I talk to are gradually changing their attitude towards their relatives back home. They are not crazy about sending money like before. Also folks are frustrated with all their lies and dishonesty plus their refusal to give us dual-citizenship. I think most diaspora Liberians have come to the realization that retirement in Liberia may not be a good option anymore because of poor governance, and services. While most developing countries are making every effort to court their citizens in the diaspora, Liberians reject their own. If that’s not stupid I don’t know what is.

  2. i live in the diaspora and these are the lies:\
    1. i have 3 plus malaria and i need to go to JFK $300
    2. My wife sister died and we need to bury her $250
    3. They kicked my children out of school i need to pay school fees $500
    4. I am getting married i need your donation.
    5. they want me to pay my rent for one year in advance $700
    6. I need to go into business so i will not call you for money again.
    7. i want to take a computer class $150.
    8. Please send me a phone so i can call you $125
    9. they “jerk” my phone (stole) in red light please buy me phone.
    10. I need a laptop so i can learn a skill and get a job $400.(laptop to watch ghanaian movies)
    11. I need to sell DK (used clothes) so i need to buy 3 bays (bundles) $700
    12. I need to buy a taxi. I will pay off the taxi in 8 months (…..never)
    13. the car you sent me broke down i need money to fix it.
    14. i saw one lot of land in Sinkor for you to build your house $2000. FORGET ABOUT YOUR MONEY
    15. My daughter graduating from high school please help $200.
    16 your auntie need food. send bag of rice and oil (not for the aunt but for the caller)

    LIES LIES LIES LIES HUSTLERS

  3. This is a well written and documented article. I applaud the writer for making such essential point. I believe we need an office to accommodate and involve the diasporian expertise in the new Liberia. This is not a call for a political takeover. But instead a call for economic development by the Diasporians.
    The writing is on the wall.. Give us a place to stand….and we will build you a great nation…from the private sector.

    Let Liberia Rise ….

  4. A wise person once said, “We can accomplish almost anything within our ability if we but think that we can!”

    Similarly, Liberians at home working cooperatively with Liberians in the diaspora can accomplish almost anything within our ability if we, as Liberians, but think that we can.

    There are too many Liberians and descendants of Liberians (children & grandchildren) living overseas with relevant skills that could be harnessed for the development of Liberia.

    These Overseas Liberians are the economic lifeblood, the key drivers of Liberia economy through countless remittances to family members back home in Liberia. It’s time for our leaders to devise thoughtful strategies to encourage Liberians in the diaspora (as the author above authenticated) who want to do business in Liberia or return to participate in boosting Liberia’s economic development.

    This could be done, by it making it easier for Liberians living overseas to have special visa waiver, or some tax incentives that could make it expedient for Liberians to come back to Liberia to visit/work or to do business in Liberia.

    Also, the numbers of Liberians living overseas have grown exponentially over the last 30 years. It’s about time to establish an Overseas Liberian Affairs Office at the Foreign Ministry to help coordinate exit and entry of Liberians travelling (for business/work) to and from Liberia.

    No one knows when Liberians living in the diaspora will ever be granted dual citizenship. However dual citizenship for Liberians living in the diaspora has greater potential for social and economic benefits toward the development of Liberia.

    I read an article recently by Sarah Mukbana (CGNT AFRICA NEWS) entitled: “Ghana urges people of African heritage to ‘come home’.” She wrote, President “Nana Akufo-Addo has designated 2019 the “Year of Return” both to commemorate the resilience of Africans forced into slavery and to encourage their descendants to “come home”.”

    Strategic thinkers like President Nana Akufo-Addo look for progressive ways to embrace talents (both Overseas Ghanaians and Non-Ghanaians) living in the diaspora to return home to develop the country.

    Let’s look at China for example: China realizes that the large Chinese population living overseas has the potential to help China speed up its economic development. Therefore, China is making use of this valuable human resource by establishing “The Overseas Chinese Affairs Office” in most of its provinces to help Chinese in the Diaspora assimilates in China and to help Chinese living oversea who are willing to do business in China.

    These thoughtful economic strategies continue to propel China rapid development unlike Liberia that continues to create constitutional and social barriers that ostracized Overseas Liberians from doing business in Liberia.

    How will Liberia develop rapidly, when Liberian doctors, administrators, economists, scientists, engineers, professors, builders, technologists, entrepreneurs, bankers, nurses, foresters, agriculturists, contractors, etc, are all plying their skills overseas?

    Yes indeed, I feel the writer’s pain in writing about this crucial matter!

    As the wise person once said, “We can accomplish almost anything within our ability if we but think that we can!”

    “Yes We Can Liberia!”

  5. Alpha,
    You are so on point. But this will call for a national unified well planned approach. Education of liberians on the grounds, and office headed by a “BEEN TO” who can meet with diasporans and receive their requests and then meet the current leaders to process and conclude.
    Let us just forget about Liberisns having other citizenships. If they love Liberia and want to come home…let them.
    We also should declare the next decade the Diaspora Decade.
    Give diaspora public land to develop at cheap prices in the counties. Only to create jobs.
    This will take development into the counties. Migration follows economic development.
    This will in turn reduce the urban migration and clean up monrivia.
    We need to ban the importation of all food so the diasporan can form partnerships to produce them.
    We have allowed our country to be used by foreigners as a wealth creation market ground.
    Now we know better.
    Let us take Liberia back. Take the economy back.
    It is the jobs, the negative trade balance, the weak currency..
    Let Liberia Rise..Give the Diasporans a chance.

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