By Staff Reporter
The Namibian Government is honored to co-host Regional Capacity Development Workshop on Diaspora Engagement, with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The Executive Director, Mr. Penda Naanda of the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation in his opening remarks expressed his heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to Mr. El Nour, Regional Director for Southern Africa, through Mr. Jason Theede, for visiting Namibia several times last month.
“Your presence here today is a testament of IOM’s commitment to supporting Namibia in particular and the SADC region as a collective, to develop national and regional diaspora engagement policy frameworks. Further, it would be demise of me to not express our gratitude to the European Union for supporting IOM’s Southern Africa Migration Management Project at the national and regional level” He commended.
He was pleased to deliver the opening remarks during the workshop, where he had no doubt that with the support of their partners; they will be closer to developing a regional framework for diaspora engagement. His acknowledgment on Diaspora is rarely included in national development plans despite their enormous contribution to the economies of their host countries and home countries.
Over the past years where they witnessed increasing interest among various stakeholders and governments in particular, on the critical role and contribution of the diaspora as well as the need to create regulatory frameworks to facilitate diaspora engagement and involvement in national development plans for economic growth, poverty reduction and knowledge transfer.
According to Naanda studies have showed that South-South migration is larger than South-North migration. This demonstrates that migration among and between developing countries is much higher than migration to the global north which she said to be true for the SADC region where migration between countries is higher than migration to the outside world. Hence, the need for a regional framework to regulate this trend and ensure the participation of the diaspora in national development of both host and home countries.
Migration has been proven to be a fast path to reducing poverty not only for the diaspora but also for families left behind and most cases diaspora share their income earned abroad with families back home through remittances. These remittances are used to buy food, send kids to school, build houses for families and more importantly to start business investments back home. Remittances are perhaps the most direct link between migration and development. Governments can therefore facilitate the flow of remittances by reducing the cost of remitting money. However, in the long term, the diaspora can facilitate exports and imports of goods between the host country and home country.
Diaspora also contribute to national development by sharing knowledge and expertise with people back home and some of them even return home after years of working abroad, bringing with them much-needed skills and savings. Remittances account for the largest source of foreign exchange for some of our countries, contributing to balance payments. In host countries, diaspora provide cheap labour and scarce skills to employers and over time, some of them start businesses that create jobs, thereby contributing to national development in host countries.
Some of the actions taken at the global level to facilitate the integration of the diaspora in national, regional and continental development efforts include, the United Nations’ recognition of the need to integrate migration into national development plans to optimize the nexus between migration and development, by endorsing the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) in 2018. Specifically, GCM Objective 19 calls for the creating conditions for migrants and diaspora to fully contribute to sustainable development.
At continental level, in recognition of the critical role and contribution of diaspora to national, regional and continental development, IOM together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the African Union Commission (AUC) have established the diaspora framework programme that seeks to facilitate the participation of the diaspora in national, regional, and continental development.
The key milestone at the continental has been the 2005 AU Declaration of the Diaspora as the continent’s Sixth Region with the objectives to “invite and encourage the full participation of the African Diaspora as an important part of the continent, in building of the African Union, in 2012 the first Global African Diaspora Summit was held in South Africa that outlined several strategies to enhance engagement with the African diaspora and in 2021, African Union Heads of State and Government declared the Decade 2021-2031 as the Decade of African Roots and Diaspora. Namibia is pleased to serve on the High-Level Ministerial Committee chaired by Togo, to oversee the activities for the Decade at the AU level.
At the regional level, SADC Members States have recognized the critical role the diaspora can contribute towards regional development efforts by prioritizing Diaspora engagement at the 2021 Migration Dialogue for Southern Africa (MIDSA) Ministerial which set the trajectory on how migration and development, regional integration and remittances could be harnessed towards development planning in the SADC region. In 2021 MIDSA Ministerial endorsed the Maputo Diaspora Declaration to promote regional integration and South-South cooperation among and between SADC Member States through diaspora engagement as a practical approach towards operationalizing Migration for Development in the region.
“I am glad to note that this Workshop is a step closer to achieving our objective as outlined in the Maputo Declaration and am pleased to share with you that in recognition of the significant role and contribution of the diaspora towards national development” She noted.
In early 2021, the Government of the Republic of Namibia, through a Cabinet Decision, directed for the initiation of the process towards the development of a National Policy on Namibian Diaspora. A Technical Committee was established within the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, to implement the Cabinet Decision.
Thereafter, several consultative meetings took place with key Namibian stakeholders, including the Namibian Diaspora. Opinions and ideas shared during these meetings significantly contributed to the development of the Draft National Policy.
The process of developing the National Policy on Namibian Diaspora has been guided by the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia, Vision 2030, the Harambee Prosperity Plans, National Development Plans, the SWAPO Party Manifesto and other national legal and strategic documents of Namibia. Furthermore, development of the National Policy has been inspired by regional, continental, and global frameworks.
This Policy will provide the necessary framework and institutional structure for engagement with Namibia’s diaspora community to actively participate in the development of the country by creating conditions necessary for them to do business, bring investment and transfer knowledge and skills to people back home.
“With this National Policy we seek to, among others, establish mechanisms to collect data on Namibians in the diaspora as well as to establish communication channels, including through engagements with diaspora associations abroad” Remarked Executive Director.
The goal is to establish a whole-of-government policy framework and set up institutional structure to specifically address the involvement of the diaspora as a key contributor to national development. It is for this reason that in the process of developing National Policy on Namibian Diaspora, involve Namibian diaspora community at all stages of the development process, including during the Multi-Sectorial Workshop convened in collaboration with the IOM at Namibia’s coastal city of Swakopmund, earlier from 10 to 12 May 2023.