“Modern nations state exists within broad economic, political and legal framework called world system. Just as individual behavior cannot be understood without reference to the sociocultural system in which they are members, individual societies or states as well, cannot be understood without reference to the world-system in which they are embedded”( Wellerstain:1976).
This implies that the economic and political influence that these countries can exercise in the international system can not be the same like that of China that is a semi periphery country, or that of the USA and European Union which are core countries.
Coming from the structurally lowest position in the world system, even the members of Ghanaian and Ethiopian Diaspora as well in most cases are located in the lowest social levels in their various host countries. This in turn, affects their opportunities available to them. For instance, most members of the Diaspora of these countries are involved in unskilled jobs (odd jobs) even though many are likely to be holders of a university degree. Adding to that Xing & Opoku-Mensah posits that the structural location of African Diaspora in the host country gives one an idea of their ability and capacity to serve as resource for the development of their homeland (Xing & Opoku-Mensa in Xing(ed) 2010:109). They further contend that “African Diaspora remains at the bottom of the economic ladder of their host countries…[Also] the African Diaspora remains a fragile actor in almost all places where it is located”(ibid).
In most European countries as well as the countries of North America, members of Ghanaian and Ethiopian Diaspora can be found doing all the odd jobs that other members of the society ( Caucasian whites) abstain from doing such as cleaning the streets, hard jobs in the factories . An exception to this is the USA where many Ghanaians and Ethiopians are involved in lucrative professions. But as a group, they remain the lowest group.
A former Ghanaian Minister of Interior Owusu-Ankomah affirms that most Ghanaians living abroad are unskilled manpower involved in unskilled professions and a large proportion is also involved in small trading (Owusu- Ankomah 2006).
Even in the area of entrepreneurship, there are few well established Ghanaian or Ethiopian entrepreneurs in Europe or North America. They do not constitute an economic force in their host countries. This has negative impact in one way or the other on the home land economies where entrepreneurs in the Diaspora are expected to be propelling force in business development given the advantage they have to be resident in developed countries.
An interesting question that arises at this point is: what is the cause of this structural problem affecting Ghanaian and Ethiopian Diaspora? Is it entirely their own making or is someone else responsible for this situation? This thesis contends that the problem lies with the way the world system is structured and how it functions.
The challenges and obstacles that confront members of the Diaspora of periphery countries such as Ghana and Ethiopia are not imaginary or artificial. But they are real and some have argued that such obstacles are deliberately put in place to check the progress of periphery countries, consequently their Diasporas. Rubbin Patterson for instance, upholds this argument in which he posits that according to the world system theory ,“periphery and semi periphery nations, individually and collectively, face a cacophony of constraining dynamics operating to keep them in check and to serve the interest of the core nations” (Patterson 2006).
World system is organized in such a way that there are in- built barriers or checks for people from poor countries like Ghana and Ethiopia. So much so that for their Diaspora to excel they must over come this obstacles put in place by the world system. Despite the fact that in the developed countries of Europe and North America there are opportunities and so-called equality, in practice is it does not work easily for members of Diaspora of the poor countries of SSA, in this case Ghana and Ethiopia. As Oliver C. Cox (1964) argued in the classic Capitalism As a System, that “although the social processes of capitalism may encourage imitation of the practices of the leading [core] societies the system itself cannot accommodate indiscriminate advancement of people” (Patterson 2006
By arguing that the Ghanaian and Ethiopian Diaspora occupy the lowest ranks of the economic strata of their host countries, does not in anywhere negate the fact that Ghanaian and Ethiopian Diasporas contribute to the development of their homeland, which they do. But the issue that is being emphasized is that the current structural location of Ghanaian and Ethiopian diasporas in their host countries is such that, it does not allow them to be a major source of investment. Nevertheless, they can play other roles such as political mobilization and knowledge transfer (Xing &Opoku-Mensah 2010:109).
The political influence of Ghana and Ethiopia in the international scene also impact on the role its Diaspora play in their development . Ghana and Ethiopia like other SSA countries that are periphery countries exercise very little political influence in the international system. Consequently their Diaspora is treated with little respect because their home countries are not important political players. For instance an American or a Chinese will normally receive better treatment from their host countries especially from Western countries. But on the other hand a Ghanaian or Ethiopian in a similar situation in the same host country is likely to receive unequal treatment.
However, it should be pointed out that not all of Ghanaian and Ethiopian Diaspora belong to the lowest class of the host countries. Among them could also be found some highly qualified professionals such as accountants, doctors, engineers and researchers, academia and business men etc. According to the IOM members of Diaspora of SSA are becoming affluent as revealed by the 2000 US census ( Xing &Opoku-Mensah 2010:99).
5.4 National Perspective.
In general, from early 2000s most African governments, opened up doors for collaboration with their Diaspora and this is evident even in AU where they have incorporated African Diaspora as sixth region. How far this collaboration is working or being effective is our question of interest. But before this thesis analyses the efficiency of national initiatives, it will first look at what have the Ghanaian and Ethiopian governments done so far.
Realizing the power their diasporas have in contributing to positive growth for the country's development, and also financial and intellectual position their diasporas have to help the people in Africa, Ghana on 24th February 2006, the government through its parliament passed Representation of the Peoples Act which allows Ghanaians abroad to register to vote in elections and other national referenda (Hon. Papa Owusu-Ankomah:2006). The government passed this law in awareness of how their Diaspora can be crucial agents in the process of country’s political growth.
Additionally, as noted by Nieswand, the Kufuor government strives to systematically advance national awareness and engagement of Diaspora. The government intends to make use of academic, social and financial resources from Ghanaian Diaspora from all over the world. A meeting with the Diaspora community is now an integral part of every foreign visit undertaken by Ghanaian politicians ( Nieswand 2008; Tonah 2007).
At the legal level, the Ghanaian government in 2002 changed its laws to allow dual citizenship to the Ghanaian Diaspora. This in turn, will allow the Ghanaian in Diaspora to be citizens of host country without loosing Ghanaian citizenship.(Mohamoud, 2003). This is used as a strategy so as the government will continue to benefit from their people. But is it an equal give and take relationship?
Even more, similar efforts have been taken to establish a 'Joseph Project' which aims at reaching out the historical or first Diaspora. With this project, the Ghanaian Government sought, to more actively include the Diaspora community in its economic and political development. The project encompasses the ‘home-coming policy’, which targets African-Americans and their descendants who were deported as slaves, while other policies are aimed at emigrants and their descendants, especially those who left the country since the 1970s and 1980s (Dr.Schmelz, 2009:17).All this is done in the effort go the government to encourage the return of the historical Diaspora back into the African continent. Following this purpose the Ghanaian government also introduced a permanent Diaspora visa that permits descendants of the historical Diaspora to visit Ghana without visas after their first visit (Xing and Paul, 2008:17). Being the only country to do so, Ghana has also been supporting its Diaspora through establishment of Diaspora Africa Forum in Ghana (Ibid).
Moreover, in the work of Dr.Schmelz, Fauser notes that the Ghanaian government went as far as assigning a number of administrative and government offices to address migration and Diaspora related issues ( Fauser in Dr.Schmelz:2009:17). Following the Homecoming Summit that took place in 2001, the government sponsored a Diaspora summit for representatives of business, politics and civil society. This summit led to the formation of the Non-Resident Ghanaians Secretariat NRGS) in 2003 within the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC). The secretariat’s task involves the coordination of policies, programs and activities with regard to the Ghanaian Diaspora, targeting investors from the Diaspora.
On the other hand, Ethiopia as well has also been trying to reach out to its Diaspora and encourage them to develop the country. As the 2004 IOM survey notes, the Ethiopian government has in a decade, try to actively engage her Diaspora in homeland affairs. Different measures on a legal level have been taken to ensure the involvement of Ethiopian Diaspora in homeland affairs. According to the 2004 IOM survey report, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs inaugurated a General Directorate in charge of Expatriate affairs. The Ministry is responsible to serve a liaison between the government and the Diaspora, safeguard the rights and privileges of Ethiopians abroad, mobilize the Diaspora to improve the public image of Ethiopia as well as encouraging the active involvement of the Diaspora in socioeconomic activities in Ethiopia ( IOM report in Terrazas:2007). Moreover, the Minister counselor of community affairs Mr. Feisel Abraham emphasized that the general Directorate main mission is to encourage investment in homeland.
Again in the July of 2004, the Ethiopian government endorsed the establishment of domestic accounts in foreign currency for its Diaspora. However, the government placed a limit to what those could maintain. According to directive No. FXD/25/2004, the balance of foreign currency denominated accounts must be between US$100 and US$5,000 and must be in either US dollars, pounds sterling, Euros, or Japanese yen (Ibid)
Unlike Ghanaian government, the Ethiopian government does not offer dual citizenship yet. Nevertheless, the government since 2002 started to offer Ethiopian Origin Identity cards to Ethiopians who hold foreign citizenship. According to Abraham, the cards entitle the holder to all Ethiopian-citizen rights except for the right to vote (Ibid).
But how effective have all the above policies and programs been so far?
From all the above initiatives taken by the two governments, it is logic that one would expect Ghana, Ethiopia and other African countries with similar number of policies, to be on frontline discussions like India, Mexico and China, on how successful their diasporas' initiatives have been. Instead most articles, journals and scholars' recommendations have been on what African countries can do to harness the benefit of their Diaspora, how weak their relationship is with between governments and their diasporas. So what is seems to be the problem?
In order to answer this question, this thesis will look at the government institutions these countries have and how practical are they in implementing their policies concerning their diasporas.
Explaining on how crucial modernizing institution is on development, Yevgeny assert that for a successful development, a state needs a conducive political and institutional environment which will position government with the necessary prerequisite of socio-economic growth. Looking at Ethiopia as an example, Lindenberg argue that Ethiopian government is not strong enough even to support Diaspora-led development. To support his argument, a chairman of VENA was quoted saying, “Unquestionably, economic development is a decisive factor for my country. But the overall important factor is politics. They make the policies and if that system does not make you move ahead you are just a prisoner in your own country. Such an administration cannot open up the road for development” ( Chairman of VENA in Lindenberg R, 2008:56 ).
Arguing along the same lines, in his work “The Ghanaian Diaspora in Germany: Its Contribution to Development in Ghana”, Dr. Schmelz notes that currently the Diaspora’s role in the specific measures of the above formulated policies and programs is still in its infancy stage and has quite a low profile in most of SSA countries. He assert that the process to embrace African Diaspora is still in its infancy. Indeed the contact is growing, but in a very slow process.(Dr.Schmelz,2009:17).
In the light of modernization theory, institutions are an integral part of a country's economic growth. As Delacroix and Ragin note, there is an important relationship between modernizing institutions and economic growth of poor countries ( Delacroix and Ragin,1978:123). But what kind of institutions does Ethiopia and Ghana government have? To answer this question, the Ghanaian Minister of finance was quoted saying,
" When one watches the cruel ineffectiveness with which so much expensively acquired equipment is operated in Ghana(...) realizes the inability of most parts of our administrative and managerial ability to deliver the high quality performance which is required for a more rapid pace of national progress (...)" (Price,1975:8). Reading between the lines, one can clearly understand that these comments imply the weak institutions that Ghanaian government have thus pose as stumbling blocks to the country's progress. In this view, even their Diasporas' contribution will not have any concrete impact to the country's development progress. Similarly in the Ethiopian government, the public sector performance is said to be limited and at low pace due to institutions' weak capacity (African Development Bank,2005:1). Noticing the same institutional immaturity, the World Bank reported that;
"Although African Governments have begun to recognize the potential contributions of their Diasporas to home country development, serious efforts on the part of government in terms
of strategies and instruments to harness these potentials are lacking, beyond the use of catch-
phrases (Africa news media are replete with phrases such as “turning brain drain to brain gain”)
or creating ministerial positions in cabinet or within the Presidency to be responsible for Diaspora
affairs but without strategies that engage the Diaspora. As a result, institutional relationships
between home country and Diasporas are weak." (World Bank, Sept 2007:17)
Besides, more often than not, situations in African governments are similar. Governments' incentives are at odds with policymaking and implementation hence weakens African Diasporas' developmental imperatives. For instance in Ghana, the government has been interested in cultivating Diaspora but its approach has been uneven. Quatey further notice that, the Ministry of Tourism is in charge of only African-American Diaspora community, and no other Ministry or agency is in charge with the rest of Ghanaian Diaspora. That being the case, even their contribution is not formalized or structured. This causes implication for the role African Diaspora can play in African development (Quartey, 2009:83)
Indeed, it has been noted by a number of scholars that African governments are good at writing on papers but the worst when it comes to implementation, something which scholars called “cheap talk” and empty promises. In their Journal, Lee Xing and Paul have also acknowledge the recognition African governments have on their potentials of their Diaspora, however there has not yet been concrete strategies by which these governments have set in order to harness those potentials. They contend that still these governments' institutions have remained to be weak hence even weakened the relations with their Diaspora ( Xing and Paul:2008:17). Xing further contends that the state is an anchor with which Diasporas’ transnational activities are made effective (ibid). That being the case, home governments’ responses plays a crucial role as an indicator of the Diasporas’ ability to make a meaningful and effective contribution. Therefore as long as governmental institutions are weak, the Diasporas’ contribution to African development will not play any significant role as the case of China, Israel and India for example.
Along the same observation, in Lindenberg's view, the significance with which the Diaspora can play developmental roles in the countries of origin is fundamentally related to the response of the homeland governments/ states. Unfortunately, the response of Africa’s governments to its Diaspora has been a weak one. He notes that, the Ethiopian government has way too complicated policies regarding Diaspora that it becomes very costly and hard for the Ethiopian Diaspora to acquire permission to start up a project. As the result, not only bigger Ethiopian organizations in the Diaspora, such as DIR find it hard to gain access to the government, but also the Ethiopian Diaspora have no trust but fear to their homeland government. This has resulted into limited cooperation Ethiopian Diaspora have with their government. In turn, few Diaspora individuals and organization tend to deal with government directly. (Lindenberg R, 2008:56). Consequently, this led to the underdeveloped institutionalized mechanisms for Africa’s relations with its Diaspora.
5.5 Historical Perspective.
Discussions about the role of Diaspora in homeland development in most cases have failed to make allusion to the history of the different Diaspora. The discussions have often been “normative and adopted a prescriptive posture (Brinkerhoff as cited by Xing&Opoku-Mensah 2010:107). African Diaspora is often called upon to do what the Jewish, Chinese, and Indian diasporas have done for their countries (Zeleza 2002, world Bank 2007,Prah 2007 as cited by Xing &Opoku-Mensah . Comparisons are made between African Diaspora and the Chinese and Indian Diasporas without taking into consideration the role history plays in the making of the different Diaspora. This thesis argues that the history of a Diaspora impacts on its contributive role to homeland development. The historical evolution and the making of a particular Diaspora must be taken into consideration.
Historical circumstances have not only been an impediment to the ability of the African historical Diaspora to play an active role in the development of the continent, but it has also been an impediment to the modern Diaspora’s ability to contribute to homeland development. The historical circumstances that affect the modern Diaspora have to do with the circumstances under which they left the continent. Xing and Opoku argue that” whether they left under economic or political “persecution” will determine the dominant nature of their links to homeland (Xing and Opuku 2010:107).
Many analysts have often challenged the African Diaspora to live up to the other great Diasporas notably the Chinese and Jewish Diaspora. They are challenged to do for Africa what the Chinese and the Jews have done for China and Israel respectively (Prah 2007.Opoku-Mensah and Banjoko 2009 ,as cited by Xing &Opoku-Mensah 2010:10). But these different Diasporas did not go through the same historical experience like the African Diaspora. The Chinese Diaspora for instance was never bought or sold as slaves. The present Chinese Diaspora is the result of centuries of migration as laborers and later gave rise to a trading or merchant Diaspora in South-East Asia(Xing&Opoku-Mensah 2010:89).
The African Diaspora on the other hand, has a dark history, of the slave trade which affected the historical Diaspora. Meanwhile most of the contemporary African Diaspora have been forced out due to civil wars, famine, ethnic conflicts, economic hardships (poverty) and natural disasters. All these bad experiences, impact their relations with homeland, their status and opportunities in host land. Many members of the Ghanaian and Ethiopian Diaspora fled from their countries because of one or more of the reasons mentioned above. In Ethiopia for example after the overthrow of Haille Selasie in 1974 by a council of soldiers know as ‘Derg’seized power and this led to political instability that caused an estimated 250.000 Ethiopians to be displaced.
Additionally famine, civil and ethnic violence, further prompted more displacement of Ethiopians (Terrazas 2007). These displace persons migrated to either Europe or North America and became refugees whose lives are imbedded with this history of conflicts and crisis. The simple fact of having the status of a refugee has lot of implications because as a refugee, you cannot go to school or travel out of the asylum country until such a time that their asylum request have been granted. In many European countries, asylum seekers can stay for up to five years or more before a definite decision is made on their case. This is time lost doing nothing and finally they are granted the residence status, most of them can not go to school any longer and prefer to settle down with odd jobs. Although some refugees do finally make it to standard social level, the majority remain in the lowest class of society.
Knowledge of the history of the formation of Diasporas permits one to understand their capabilities and abilities as well as the difficulties that they faced. Xing & Opoku-Mensah contend that the roles of African Diaspora must be a function of its history. An understanding of the historical evolution of the historical African Diaspora for instance enables one to grasp the reason for the lack of close connection with the continent. The cultural dislocation suffered by the historical African Diaspora affects its relationship with the continent. Furthermore, the history of the Chinese Diaspora as a labor and trading Diaspora explains their success today as a Diaspora of powerful entrepreneurs and their historical links to the country. It goes the same way with the Lebanese Diaspora who also have a history of trading.(Ibid 2010:107).
The history of slavery is not just a history that affects the historical Diaspora but equally one that affects the contemporary Diaspora. This implies that, it does not matter which generation one belongs to, the mere fact that Africans were once treated as slaves, wherever they go in western countries, they are bear the image of an inferior human being that manifest itself in racial discrimination. Due to this, the African diasporas' opportunities are limited in most cases hence impact their potential capability for economic prosperity. In turn this has a direct effect on their capacity to develop their countries of origin.
This thesis has carefully explored the transnatioanl activities carried out by Africa Diaspora and their impact in their countries of origin. We went further and explain how globalization forces enhances movement of these Diasporas, their activities and involvement in their homelands development. Nonetheless, the main argument we raised in this thesis is that, though Africa Diaspora is contributing quite enough in development of their origin countries, the impact is still very minimal. In order to explore the reasons for the minimal impacts of their contribution, we chose three perspective; international, national and historical perspective.
In a course of analyzing how structural location of states in the international system affect the African Diaspora, we found that the hierarchy which states have in that system, is also imbedded societies and it is referred to as race hierarchy. We found that race poses as one of the major challenges to African Diaspora, as it determines Africa Diaspora opportunities they can have, limit their capabilities hence undermine their potentials. As the result of this, even affect their contribution to development in their homelands.
While looking into national perspective, this thesis explored more into institutions African countries have. Our argument is that development is better enhanced in the presence of developed, strong and functioning institutions. Conversely, while exploring Ghana and Ethiopia, we found that these countries have many policies written down on paper but less implementation. We even found that, the new Diaspora Ministries that these countries and other African countries, have established are still weak and lack concrete strategies regarding harnessing the potentials of their Diaspora. We also found that these countries have feeble relationship with their Diasporas thus limit their involvement and commitment to a country's development.
Similarly, the history of African has been a factor limiting the extent to which African diasporas can help to develop their countries of origin. In this regard, it is established that the circumstances that serious impacts the kind of links to be maintained with their home country. Whether they left under economic or political persecution is very crucial. Furthermore, the ‘dark history’ of slavery and colonization have left an indelible mark on all people of African descent and especially black Africans. In Europe and North America, African Diasporas have to deal not only with racial discrimination against them, but also with other stereotypes erroneously associated with the black race.
Therefore, the three perspectives we have used have unquestionably help us into answering our questions. Nonetheless, we believe that there are more challenges ( which can be found in further research)than the ones analyzed in this paper which pose setbacks to the limited impact African Diaspora's contribution has on homeland.