The African Diaspora is not a monolithic group.
Some members were born and reared outside of their African origin. Some migrated from Africa to Europe, the United States, and other parts of the world at a young age or to attend college. Others may have left their African countries of origin later in life as economic migrants searching for more promising opportunities. And millions more are the descendants of African people taken away from the continent as a result of the transatlantic trade for enslavement. Yet, regardless of how or where they settled, people of African descent often share an essential commonality: the desire to leverage their skills, talents, and resources toward Africa’s development and prosperity.
Increasingly, many in the African Diaspora are seeking opportunities to be a strategic force in the development and growth of their countries of origin. In a 2021 report on remittances, the Brookings Institute wrote: “remittance flows to sub-Saharan Africa were recorded to be $48 billion, but the true total is likely to be significantly larger.” This amount is larger than foreign direct investment (FDI) and comparable in size to official development assistance (ODA).
This makes clear that the power and impact of diaspora communities cannot be denied and can be increasingly leveraged in the collective push for economic development in Africa, beyond remittances. It is often said that businesses do not invest in what they cannot see, so under the Prosper Africa initiative, we are working to make economic opportunities visible – demystifying markets, right-sizing perceptions of risk, driving interest, and fostering new connections.
The Prosper Africa initiative is comprised of 17 U.S. government agencies working in concert to increase trade and investment between African nations and the United States. As part of this interagency Prosper Africa team, the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) invests in African small and medium enterprises to strengthen local economies and improve livelihoods and prepare them to eventually become reliable trading partners for U.S. companies. For more than 40 years, USADF has promoted local economic development and created pathways to prosperity for underserved African communities by utilizing a community-led development approach. USADF’s African-owned and -led approach to economic growth makes it a formidable tool in the U.S. government’s foreign policy toolkit.
Diaspora communities in the United States are increasingly interested in supporting African products and seeing more African and ethnic options available in the U.S. marketplace. USADF’s investments in early-stage African enterprises can help fulfill this growing demand for better and more diverse African representation in U.S. retail outlets. USADF’s entrepreneurs are increasingly export-ready and landing deals with major retailers such as COSTCO (nuts), Macy’s (handwoven “peace baskets”), Target (shea-based cosmetics), and Whole Foods (African-fabric holiday totes). In addition, USADF’s financial and technical assistance to coffee cooperatives has facilitated several of them exporting premium coffee to the United States and Europe.
Africa will play an increasingly important role in the global economy. The continent is home to some of the fastest-growing markets in the world, and its growing population is increasingly young, urban, and digitally connected. African Diasporas are natural partners for USADF as we work collectively to facilitate this growth and support Africa’s youth and changemakers.
As examples of the diaspora relationships we are building, USADF is a lead sponsor of the African Diaspora Network’s 2022 Builders of Africa’s Future Awards and will fund several early-stage African enterprises innovating technology and health care access and delivery. We are also continuing an impactful partnership with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) Foundation and NBA players to increase investment and development in African communities.
The African Diaspora plays a critical role in the economic development of the African continent by promoting trade and foreign direct investment, creating businesses, spurring entrepreneurship, and transferring new knowledge and skills. And USADF is proud to be at the forefront in engaging this community to expand development opportunities for Africa while creating pathways to prosperity for underserved communities across the continent. And that is why we are a proud sponsor of AFRICON 2022 to celebrate the diversity and dynamism of the African Diaspora, while building transformative relationships with those ready to invest in Africa, the continent of both now and the future.