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The Rise of the Diaspreneurs

Every fortnight, we hand over the blog to one of the London Shapers, to give you a flavour of what they do, how they think and what's really going on in our hearts and minds. Today's piece comes from Ade Adeyemi, who is a Senior Manager at NHS England and Deputy Fellowship Director at Chatham House.

They say the English language owes a great debt to Shakespeare who invented over 1700 common words. People are also saying the future of development in developing countries belongs to its entrepreneurs, particularly those that leave home shores for the big wide world. These people - globally savvy and connected - are increasingly leveraging their duality to develop economic opportunities back home. We might want to introduce a new word to describe them, ‘diaspreneurs’. Their numbers are rising and they are gathering importance as a group that can help address many development issues.

Diaspora (Noun); a scattered population whose origin lies in a separate geographic locale.

For example, when we think about the economic benefits of the estimated 150 million African Diaspora around the world, or the 31 million Indian Diaspora, most people tend to fixate on the billions sent annually to support families back home (i.e. remittances). Remittances and philanthropy are critical parts of the economic development story, however, investments into businesses by a new breed of globalised diaspora entrepreneurs is growing and the time is coming for this to be recognised.

Despite the advantages these entrepreneurs bring, many governments aren’t doing enough to attract and facilitate more of them unfortunately. Many still require aspiring diaspreneurs to follow complex procedures and that’s not considering those countries in the midst of civil war or power-struggle laced elections. Whilst these situations make investment unattractive to most business people, diaspreneurs often possess the social connections, cultural understanding, willingness and resiliency it takes to invest in markets or economies that traditional investors view as risky. My African diaspreneur friends are the only people that have the determination/foolishness (delete as appropriate) to get past the lack of transparency, weak enforcement of the rule of law and corruption to stimulate private enterprise back home in Africa.

Most Global Shapers would agree that entrepreneurship is a powerful driver of economic growth: it creates new companies and jobs, opens up new markets and nurtures new skills. Looking through an economic development lens, diaspreneurs represent an important and growing pool of potential entrepreneurs - particularly in the context of globalisation and an increasingly connected world. Yet, they often face unnecessary legal, cultural and linguistic obstacles that don’t always need to be there. From an economic policy development lens, these issues need to be addressed in full to give support equitable to that received by all other groups that invest in home countries.

Diaspreneurs contribute economically and socially to their home communities in unique ways, which we must recognise is markedly different to remittances, philanthropy and what Western governments typically do (i.e., foreign aid). In fact, in light of the discussion of whether globalisation is working or not, Diaspora represent a group well versed in local-national context that's best placed to link the two. Most often, such members of the diaspora tend to be wealthier than resident citizens, making them more likely to have means to invest in their homelands. Supporting diaspreneurship, for example through access to micro-credit assistance schemes, is a vital channel to foster people in the diaspora to contribute to the economy and their societies back home.

Much will depend on the success of this recent cadre of Diaspreneurs to stand up and tell their stories, encouraging others around the world to stand and be counted with them. As the famous bard once said, “all the worlds’ a stage” - the next biggest players in development might just be Diaspreneurs!

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