ROLE OF THE NJIKOKA DIASPORA COMMUNITY IN FLORIDA, IN HOMELAND DEVELOPMENT. (1980 – 2007)
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Over the years, one of the most important developments in the field of migration has been the mass exodus and the emergence of large and economically thriving Nigeria Diaspora Communities in the developed countries of America and Europe and recently, the Asia countries. This had brought about a growing concern on the part of Nigeria government, international agencies and some scholars over the “Brain drain” phenomenon in Nigeria and Africa at large, because of the continuous exodus of Africans from Africa since the late 1970’s1. Despite this, there is still a close-tie relationship maintain by these Nigeria Diaspora and their home country. They usually send remittances back home and take part in the development activities in their hometowns. By these, they have collective impart on poverty alleviation and encourage gradual development in their Homeland.
In the last few years, the nexus between Diaspora and Development has emerged as a distinct policy field, driven by the Diaspora. This is because of the growing economic and human-resources potential of Diaspora communities, which needs to be tapped in order to benefit the overall development of the country. Kudos to modern and rapid communication that now enables the Diasporas to exert far greater influence on their homeland than ever before. This advantage enables Diaspora communities to buildup interesting social, economic and political bridges that link their new places of residence with the homeland. This gives the Diaspora communities a considerable advantage over traditional mainstream development organization operating back home and enables the Diasporas to make significant contributions to the overall development of their homeland. What was formally known as “Brain drain” has now translate to “Brain gain” because the homeland now reap development benefits, and even spur brain gain in the return of highly educated and skilled Diaspora to their homeland.
In the case of Njikoka Diaspora Community in Florida, which forms the centre of this study, most of them on individual basis remit great sums of money (through formal and informal channels) annually back home2. About 90% of such remittance flows directly to their respective families, thereby working to alleviate poverty and providing lifeline for those whose breadwinners had relocated outside the country. The remaining 10% are channel into investment, developmental pursuits and fund productive activities that accelerate the transfer of skills, knowledge and experience to firms in their homeland. Research had shown that these investments become important sources of employment sustaining many people who would otherwise have no way of securing livelihood3.
1.2 AIMS AND OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
There is still a limited understanding of the concept of development within the context of Njikokans in Diaspora and their developmental activities back home. This arises because of the conceptual confusion over the meaning of the term “Diaspora and Development”. There is therefore, a need for more research into this, and more clarification of its precise conceptual denotation and its translation in practical terms. It is based on this premise that this study is aimed at broadening the conceptual understanding of what is meant by “development” within the context of Njikoka Diaspora and her role in development of her homeland.
The objective of this study is to improve our understanding of the other aspects of the field of Diaspora and Development, while seeking to analyze some key actors, structural features and recent developments in the field of Diaspora engagement in Njikoka.
It is also the objective of this study to generate knowledge and information within an area, which had not been properly studied despite its importance in the field of migration and development with regard to Njikoka and by extension Anambra state.
1.3 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Before now, most research work in the field of Diaspora/Migration and Development was either confined to the host or home countries. Nevertheless, this study will try to transcend a limited country scope, which will be of interest to scholars and researchers in this field. This is because it sets an alternative research agenda focused on the nexus between migration and development, and hence advance the discussion in the field. It introduces a development-oriented perspective that captures the essence of the concrete development-related activities in which Diasporas are involved in their homeland.
This study is also of significant because it aims at making available information and knowledge to Diaspora organizations and policy makers in the homelands, who are currently largely left in the dark, about much needed access to useful and up to-date information which are lacking in this field. More importantly, the study will further facilitate collaboration between researchers from host and home countries; facilitate the integration of Diaspora researcher and academic institutions thereby laying the foundation for a sustainable intellectual partnership between the host and homeland researchers. This will facilitate the cross-fertilization of ideas, knowledge and experience between the Diaspora and their homeland. Above all the outcome of this study will be of high interest and value to policy makers concern with Diaspora and Development related issues both within and outside Njikoka community, while setting in motion a process that could lay the ground for regular and sustain contact and network between the Diasporas and their local communities.
1.4 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF STUDY.
The scope of this study will span across Njikoka in Nigeria and Florida in USA, with the primary aim of mirroring the roles and contributions of the Njikoka Diaspora Community living in Florida towards the development of their homeland. The inquiry into this study will look into the trans-continental context within which the Njikoka contemporary Diaspora operates. However, it will emphasize on why the Njikoka Diaspora community in Florida is one of the main global forces and catalyst shaping the directions and trends of development in Njikoka. There is still limited understanding of how institutional cooperation exists between Diaspora communities and their local and state government, which is so disturbing. It is pathetic to state here that these states and local governments do not have much needed information/data about their Diaspora Communities, which Njikoka Diaspora Community in Florida is not an exemption.
However, owing to logistics, time and financial constraints, in depth and thorough review and consultation of widely available literatures was not fully achieved. There was also limitation with traveling, booking for interviews and acceptance to grant interview by some respondents. Collecting data for this study is a little bit challenging because there are very few documented studies that address the engagement of the Njikoka Community Diaspora with their homeland, beyond transfer of remittances. Most of the study on Njikoka Diaspora studies concentrates on its historical and cultural dimensions. In order to come up with a fashionable work, gathering information will be sort from the scratch; despite the fact, some people decline to let out some information at their disposals.
1.5 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
Because of the diverse composition of the Njikoka Diaspora Community that is in Florida, USA, this study adopted a broad trans-continental framework of data collection and analysis from those in Florida (America) and Njikoka (Africa). Information will be collected from members of the community who had returned home, as well as those who are still in Florida through a telephone interview and e-mail. Primary and secondary, as well as oral data sources was sought and used to complement the reviewed available literature. Consultations, direct observation at functions, discussions, site visits and casual interaction with relatives and beneficiaries of the Njikoka Diaspora community was employed for gaining additional insights.
In addition to formal and casual interactions, documentation regarding ongoing projects and completed projects in the general area of development by the Njikoka Diaspora Community in Florida at their homeland was sought. Such supporting documentation will range from Reports to Journals and newspaper articles. All these put together will serve beyond a mere complementary role, but will provide a benchmark for assessing the accuracy of other response, and provides avenues for further probing and validation of information sources that appeared to be in conflict or contention.
1.6 LITERATURE REVIEW
The literature on Diaspora engagement in development uses divergent and at times discontinuous notion of “Migration”, “Diaspora” and “Diasporans” to describe the subject of the inquiries4,5,6. Orozco works within a narrow framework of the concepts while Brah and Brinkerhoff on the other hand, provide more complex conceptualizations of the Diaspora. But they only wrote on the host countries’ point of views on Diaspora. Zoomers and Schapendonk corroborated this point when they argue, “Given that funding usually comes from the North, research agendas are often biased, focusing on issues such as how to control migration”. As a result, the objective of development cooperation policy regarding migration and development are often subordinate to other issues that are regulatory in nature7.
In a discussion on the significance of human capital in the development of Africa, Richard Joseph noted thus: For Africa to fulfill at last its destiny to become a developmental state, she must urgently identify ways to benefit from the financial capital as well as the human capital of her Diaspora now spread over several continents8. The discretionary financial resources of these emigrants are urgently needed as are their resources in knowledge and professional behaviors”. Joseph goes on to recommend systematic and sustainable collaboration between governments of receiving countries in Africa and Diaspora organizations in order to marshal the financial and human resources of the Diaspora-resources that are needed to build viable and sustainable economies in Africa.
Supporting the Diaspora in the development of homeland is crucial if the many benefits of Diaspora engagement are to be effectively harnessed, the positive gains of migration are to be realized while the negative aspects of migration- both real and supposed- are to be reduced or eliminated. Establishing concrete formalized institutional linkage across continents and working towards sustainable and productive cooperation between the various Actors involved in the field of migration and development is arguably the most effective way to support the Diaspora in their development efforts. According to P. Chudi Uwazuruike, “As a first step towards this goal, however, homeland must create favorable environment for Diaspora engagement and investment in the development of the homeland”9. Some challenges that need to be address in order to create an enabling environment on ground in the homeland include bad governance, political instability, lack of commitment and poor economic conditions as well as issues of personal freedom, basic civil rights, democracy and the rule of law. Such complex challenges which are often refer to as push factors of emigration, are prevalent in the homeland and often manifest themselves in widespread social upheaval, the disruption of economic production and growth, high level of unemployment, unsatisfactory or exploitative working conditions, poor physical infrastructure, the lack of adequate social service, the absence of democracy and the prevailing of human right abuses. In addition, the management of migration is in a state of flux at the global level, and the situation in the homeland is unstable and worrying.
In his own contribution, Adepoju opines: “An additional priority for encouraging Diaspora involvement in development efforts in the homeland is to ensure an integrated and comprehensive approach to the development and implementation of migration policy, involving all partners in the migration policy arena and especially government agencies, the private sector, civil society organizations, trade unions, and bilateral and multilateral development agencies”10. An analysis of Diaspora developmental activities must take into account the diversity within the Diaspora groups. The context of developmental policies and analyses which often expose a lack of attention to and differentiations of what shapes the motivation of development agents is prone to instrumentalists approach which tend to unduly generalize, homogenize and implicitly essentialise the subject of their inquiry.
That is why this study will seek to both sidestep and counter such simplifying notions. One way to do this is through a careful differentiation between Diaspora as a concept describing groups of people sharing a common country of origin to which they retain ties and with which they engage in ways that motivate collective (re)engagement, and Diasporans as individuals or section of the larger entity whose agency is shaped by their concept of Diaspora, but also by their social and political background and context. Despite the fact that Diasporans increasingly succeed in finding common platforms for collective actions, they cannot be reduced to a singular collective actor. Thus, the differentiation between the concept of Diaspora and the diverse set of Diaspora actors who – in their diversity – comprise the groups whose activities are to be investigated, becomes a very interesting point for this research work.
In researching Diasporas, it is important to heed to Patterson’s and Kelly’s call that “linkage that ties the Diaspora together must be articulated and are not inevitable (….) the Diaspora is both process and condition. As a process, it is always in the making and as a condition, and is therefore situated within the global and gender hierarchies.”11 A simplifying notion of Diaspora is furthermore countered by an analysis that does not simply show Diasporan collective actions, but also different approaches and social differentiation within the groupings of the two national Diasporas. The complexity of the concept of Diaspora is aptly captured by Avtar Brah: 12
The concept of Diaspora concerns the historically variable forms of relationality within and between diasporic formation. It is about relations of power that similarise and differentiate between and across changing diasporic constellation. In other words, the concept of Diaspora centers on the configurations of power which differentiate Diasporas internally as well as situate them in relation to one another. Diaspora in the sense of distinctive historical experience, are often composite formation (…). Each such Diaspora is an interweaving of multiple travelling, a text of many distinctive, and perhaps even disparate narratives13.
In furtherance of the explanation of the above, Manuel Orozco has identified four critical factors which “enables the formation of a group into a Diaspora”14. These are
v The level of community – particularly elite and activist – consciousness about the need or desire for link with the homeland;
v The homeland perception of emigrants;
v The outreach policies by governments in the homeland; and
v The existence of relationship between sources and destination countries.
These four factors contribute to fostering a certain level of transnational engagement with the homeland. It is this transnational engagement with the home which creates a Diaspora commonality among committed Diasporans in ways that can partially transcend some of the important differentiation identified by Brah. It is important to consider the three-pronged idea of development in the Diaspora, development through the Diaspora and development by the Diaspora. The first refers to the use of networks in the host country, which includes the formation of ethnic businesses, cultural ties and social mobilization. The second refers to how diasporic communities utilize their diffuse global connections beyond the locality to facilitate economic and social well-being. While the third, applies to the ramification of the flow of ideas, money and political support to the migrants’ homelands. This framework provides an important differentiation because it draws attention to the different methods of direct and indirect Diaspora engagement as well as the importance that only meaningful analysis of Diasporan developmental engagement has to focus on how the host country context influences Diasporan developmental activities. Then, it may be far more rewarding to note the existential realities and challenges that the Diasporas have to contend with in their host countries, such as:
i. The priority of gaining an economic footing in a race-conscious society in which they have few ties;
ii. The inevitability of having first to build community and consensus of culture reaffirmation in a secular and highly mobile culture – for the sake of their children and families- from language, classes, gender-role acquisition and other rite of passage, marriage and births to schooling, work and funeral obligation;
iii. Moreover, at the same time, having to respond to request for assistance from those back home- mostly in the form, as mentioned earlier, of remittances, conferences, donations of scarce items such as computers, the sending of medical missions back home, refurbishing of hospitals, clinics, and establishments of businesses. Most do not couch their efforts in the language of “national development” as scholars understand it. Yet their contributions, in cash and in kind, are of developmental significance.
Speaking in London at the African Diaspora Leadership Forum in 2006, Joseph Legwaila of Botswana, had cause to weigh in on a topic group everywhere wanted to hear about it; “The role of Diaspora in support of Africa’s Development”; he called for a Diaspora emphasis on advocacy for the continent and the fostering of private sector development15. There is no question that the Diaspora remains ready and able to play an energetic role in these efforts, as Zan analyses in his 2004 examination of Africa Diaspora’s contribution to national development using diverse channels. Noting that Africa has indeed, been quite proactive in recognizing the role that African Diaspora already dose and can potentially play in national development efforts16. Zan argued, “True national development requires priority-setting, planning, coordination and political will….” and hence the need for “policy intervention to coordinate and harmonize the efforts of the Diaspora with those undertaking by national and district institutions17”. But the way to truly “(unlock) the potential of the Diaspora” lies in the clarification of existing laws and policies, the development of appropriate new laws and policies, and the provision of appropriate incentives to stimulate a more suitable engagement of the Diaspora with national development.
While making his own contribution, the Toledo university-based professor Rubin Patterson, in his 2006 paper “Transnationalism, Diaspora-Homeland Development” seeks to weave the emerging interest in migration remittances and brain circulation to conventional theories of development18. Patterson makes clear that no developing country has gone far on the development trajectory since the Second World War without a strategic embrace of the opportunities presented by the USA. Countries like Korea to Israel, Taiwan to India, Singapore to Mexico and the tiger economy of china, all have moved forward when they became clearer about what they truly need with the combine efforts of both local and Diaspora communities.
Therefore, there is no gain saying the fact that Njikoka will need to make haste, and its surest best practice lies in wooing its high-level work force residing overseas, which includes scientists, researchers, engineers, medical personnel, academic professors and high-level students. Others are managers, business executives, industrialists and consultants for local and multinational firms in both public and private sectors. For this to bear fruits, it has been argued that the usual difficulties faced by skilled Njikoka professionals will need to be addressed. These include the lack of institutional support, along with weaknesses in the existing support mechanisms, the difficulty in conducting scientific and business partnership with local counterparts and lack of clear assessment of sectors for possible intervention by highly skilled Diasporans.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. Akunrang-Parry K.O. (1989) “Passionate Voices of Those Left Behind, on Brain Drain and its Net Gains” African Issues, , vol. 30, No.1, pp 57-61
2. Banjoko T. (2004) “Financing African Development: Mobilizing the Diaspora” (London: Commission for Africa).
3. Ama U. (2001) “Remittance: Lifeline for Development” Finance and Development, vol.42, No.4, , pp 5-7
4. Orozco M. (2002) “Globalization and Migration: Impact of Family Remittance in Latin America”. Latin America Politics and Society. Vol. 44, No.2, Pp 41-66
5. Brah A. (1995) “Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities”. (London: Rutledge Chapman and Hall).
6. Brinkerhoff J.M (2008) “Enabling Diaspora Development Contributions”. Available via (accessed 10th Oct.2010).
7. Zoomers A and Schapendonk (2007) “Migration in a Globalizing World: knowledge, Migration and Development” (Leiden: International Development Publication).
8. Joseph R. (2005) “At Home Abroad: Human Capital and Homeland Development” (Lagos: Sub-Saharan Publisher) , Pp. 27-29
9. Uwazuruike P.C (2000) “Ibos’ Helping Their Homeland” (Enugu: West Africa Publishers) Pp. 12-14
10. Adepoju A. (2005) “Migration in Sub-Saharan Africa”. (Uppsala: Nordiska Afrika Institutet).
11. Patterson T.R and RDG Kelley (2000) “Transnationalism: Diaspora-Homeland Development” African Studies. Reviewed, Vol.43, No.1 pp 11-45
12. Brah (1995) op cit
13. Orozco M. (2002) op cit
14. Brah (1995) op cit
15. Joseph R. (2005) Op cit
16. Zan S. (1992) “One nation, One people, One destiny? Diasporas’ Contribution to Development using Diverse Channels”. SEND Foundation of Western Africa, ed. Action Research Study May, Pp 1-13.
17. Zan S. (1992) Op cit
18. Patterson T.R (2000) “Human Capital and Homeland Development” Lagos: Sub-Saharan Publisher, pp. 27-29