By Dr. Tunde Basil Jones
MY 56 INDEPENDENCE MESSAGE TO GAMBIANS – MOBILIZING THE GAMBIAN DIASPORA FOR DEVELOPMENT
The Gambian diaspora should be considered not just as sources of financing but as partners in development. If the Gambian diaspora community is to be encouraged to contribute their financial and knowledge capacities in their country of origin, the government of the Gambia needs to put in place a number of fundamentals including;
- Constitutional governance anchored on democratic institutions, the observance of basic human rights and civil liberties including constitutional amendments which enable Gambian diaspora to take up dual citizenship, may prove to be a major incentive for their participation in national development;
- A stable legal, policy and institutional environment, which guarantees that contractual obligations are honoured and respected. Indeed Gambians in the Diaspora detest bureaucratic inertia and corruption that characterizes public administration;
- Security sector forces that are accountable to democratically elected parliaments, devoted to creating a secure environment for public-private partnerships to flourish. Gambians in the diaspora will be reluctant to deploy their human, financial and technical capacities in a country where fraud, violent crime and lawlessness reign unrestrained.
The Gambian diaspora can play a positive role in poverty reduction and the Government of the Gambia need to operationalize the special diaspora Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A framework for engagement needs to be developed. The recommendations below should be considered for a meaning government/diaspora engagement going forward.
- The Government and the Gambian diaspora should agree on a shared national development vision around which to mobilize diaspora resources.
- An enabling environment is a pre-requisite to successful diaspora engagement.
- The Government must appreciate Gambian brainpower no matter where it resides.
- Embrace brain circulation by the Government by attracting and motivating highly skilled Gambian migrants to either return or engage with their home country. They do not necessarily have to return back permanently.
- Making use of diaspora resources for productive investment rather than smoothing out consumption.
- Develop a database of Gambian diaspora expertise.