What is a diaspora?
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Migration Policy Institute have defined it as: “Emigrants and their descendants who live outside the country of their birth or ancestry, either on a temporary or permanent basis, yet still maintain affective and material ties to their countries of origin. ” Given the number of immigrants (6.22 million) and their children in France (7.48 million), diasporas represent a potential 20% of the French population.
The African diaspora in France accounts for roughly half of the African diaspora in Europe; it consists of both foreigners (2.5 million people, including 813,000 from Sub-Saharan Africa) and descendants of immigrants (1.7 million).
Due in large part to its history, France is the European country of choice for the most diverse, active, and structured diasporas in Europe. Diaspora ties to their countries of origin are evidenced, among other things, by the steady increase in the volume of remittances: According to the World Bank, migrants’ remittances worldwide represented $520 billion in 2018, including $46 billion in transfers from France to Africa the same year. Recent trends also show the generally higher education levels of diasporas as well as their increased feminization (data from OCDE-AFD 2019).
Evolving diaspora-driven initiatives
Although most diaspora transfers to their countries of origin are meant to be spent by the families who stayed behind (consumer goods, education, housing, or health), we estimate that an average 15% of remittances are invested, especially in real estate. In some instances, a same person is enlisted for family support, involvement in an association, a business project, or a real estate project.
Different practices are emerging with new generations, what we call second- and third-generation children: a greater focus on business and private investment, involvement in great causes like climate change and the fight against inequality. Emblematic figures from the economic, political, cultural, and sports worlds are engaging and acting as ambassadors of international solidarity.
The vital role of “repatriates”
From “repatriates”, as opposed to “expatriates”, the “repats” movement is gaining momentum across the younger generations of the diaspora. 70% of African MBA students want to relocate to Africa. This talent return, supported by such mechanisms as AfricTalent, Forum Elit', MoveMeBack, Careers in Africa, is characterized by a high degree of legitimacy, a personal stake in developing the continent, as well as emotional intelligence and the ability to track trends.
Major companies, such as Orange, Unilever, CFAO, Canal +, have already made diasporas a major asset for their development in Africa. Data concerning these new profiles is still very limited, but the Inspire Africa association estimates that:
- 76% of repats have lived in France, 26% in North America
- A third don’t return to their country of origin preferring another African country
- The three main reasons for returning to Africa: wanting to make a difference on the continent, promising career opportunities, family and social pressure
- 32% of repats are entrepreneurs.
Building diaspora institutions
Diaspora contributions to civic, political, and economic life are becoming increasingly recognized by country-of-origin governments: in Morocco, national authorities portray Moroccans worldwide as the thirteenth region of the Kingdom of Morocco. In Senegal, 15 deputy seats were allocated for the diaspora in parliament; in Guinea and Mali, some government ministers come from diasporas.
In France, Emmanuel Macron established the Presidential Council for Africa (CPA) to revitalize the France-Africa partnership. A large portion of counsel members are from diasporas.
In France, diasporas are grouped together in the Forum of Migrants’ International Solidarity Organizations (FORIM). Established in 2002, FORIM reflected the determination of migrant associations to better organize themselves under the umbrella of a representative body and the desire of public authorities to have a legitimate interlocutor representing migrants. As a result, the partnership between the diasporas, represented by FORIM, and the relevant public authorities is a recurrent one, with AFD in particular (see box below).
The shared aspirations of France and its African partners have generated such projects as the Program to Support Solidarity Initiatives for Development (PAISD) in Senegal or Diasporas Mali, supported by AFD. In Senegal, from 2005 to 2015, PAISD raised nearly €6 million from Senegalese diasporas in France to co-finance close to 150 social infrastructure projects involving education, health, and water supply in their native village along the banks of the Senegal River.
What is AFD’s role?
Established in 2002, the Forum of Migrants’ International Solidarity Organizations (FORIM) is the national platform representing migrant associations in France. It brings together more than 1,000 federations and associations of the diaspora from 70 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and is involved in integration efforts in France and in development projects in countries of origin.
AFD supports FORIM through two programs:
- The Program of Support to the Projects of Migrants’ International Solidarity Organizations (PRA-OSIM): an instrument that helps diaspora associations finance micro-projects in their countries of origin. Every year, PRA-OSIM provides funding for over 75 micro-projects (contributing €15,000 per project) in close to 30 countries, primarily in education and training, health, agriculture, water and sanitation, and entrepreneurship.
- The aim of the programme structuration du milieu associatif (SMA) is to build the capacities and strengthen the advocacy of diaspora associations.
Finally, in response to the entrepreneurial and investment dynamic so evident among younger generations, AFD also supports two projects with an “All Africa” dimension: European Mobilization for Entrepreneurship in Africa - MEETAfrica for diaspora entrepreneurs and DIASDEV for diaspora investors who leverage the new wireless transfer, banking, and crowdfunding tools. It’s clear, the role of diasporas as development partners is steadily growing, spearheaded by these citizens trailblazing a new relationship with Africa and international solidarity.