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New DIIS Brief by Oliver Bakewell challenges the current diaspora and development hype

Today there is great interest in diasporas’ role in development across Africa and much enthusiasm for identifying policies that can maximise their contribution. In this new DIIS (Danish Institute for International Studies) Brief Oliver Bakewell, senior research officer at the International Migration Institute, University of Oxford, raises four questions that challenge uncritical enthusiasm for diasporas’ increased involvement in development: 1) Who is in the diaspora? 2) Where is the diaspora? 3) How does diaspora engagement affect accountability? And 4) What ideas of development are being used?

The Brief critically explores these questions. It offers a concise working definition of diaspora, arguing that not all expatriate populations can—or should—be defined as such. Furthermore, the Brief points to the risk of co-option of diasporas into the established development industry, reproducing similar initiatives under diaspora leadership, rather than sustaining their distinctiveness. Finally, it urges African states to avoid privileging the priorities and activities of their mobile expatriate populations above those people who remain within their borders.
The Brief was presented at the seminar ‘Agents of Change? African Diaspora Organizations and Homeland Development’, held at DIIS April 3, 2009. This was the second seminar in the DIIS Migration Seminar serial ‘Revisiting the Migration-Development Nexus: visions, challenges and prospects’. For more information about the seminars, see

Download the working DISS brief