Celebrating diaspora contribution to development

International Development Secretary Justine Greening's speech at Comic Relief's Africa in Action event celebrating the contribution of the Africa diaspora to international development.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Justine Greening MP


Thank you for that introduction. And thank you to Comic Relief for organising this event.

It’s nearly 30 years since Comic Relief was launched live on Noel Edmonds’ ‘Late, Late Breakfast Show’ from a refugee camp in Sudan. It hardly needs saying, that you have gone on to do the most incredible, life-changing work across Africa, aided by the enormous generosity of the British public.

This government is a proud supporter of Comic Relief and the work you do. That’s why since 2011 my Department has matched some £52million of public donations to Comic’s Relief appeals, doubling the amount that some fantastic causes are receiving from the public.

Africa rising

I was one of a generation of school children who really woke up to the immense challenges that other countries faced thanks to Live Aid and Red Nose Day. And like many people my perception of Africa was very much shaped by those vivid appeals that showed so much unimaginable suffering.

But today the story has changed. In the last 30 years there has been amazing progress across Africa. More children are in education, maternal mortality rates are down, fewer people are dying of malaria and AIDS.

Looking at Africa today you can see high levels of economic growth, a continent embracing and advancing technology, a continent of entrepreneurs, young and growing populations, a wealth of resources. Africa is rising.

But I don’t need to tell this audience that this progress is fragile - 1 in 2 Africans still live in extreme poverty. Girls and women in particular are too often locked out of their country’s development.

The challenge is to keep Africa’s momentum going, to accelerate growth even faster and to ensure that everyone reaps the benefits of that growth.

That’s why the UK has really stepped up its support for African countries, increasingly focusing on driving sustainable growth and jobs for men and women, as well as our core work supporting education, health and sanitation. Our goal is to help Africa realise its enormous potential and ultimately leave poverty and aid behind for good.

There is no doubt that African diaspora are absolutely key to achieving this, the diaspora have played and will continue to play a huge role in Africa’s rise.

Whether it’s diaspora charities supporting disaster appeals, or individuals personally contributing through remittances or diaspora entrepreneurs returning to help create jobs and stimulate trade, the time, energy and expertise you give, and the generosity you show makes a life-changing, life-saving difference.

That is why my Department for International Development is working very closely with diaspora organisations, helping to maximise your impact on the ground.

And today I want to set out some of the key ways we’re doing that. Firstly how we are supporting the diaspora to improve lives and livelihoods, and ultimately build stronger, more sustainable economies too.

Secondly, how we are increasingly engaging with the diaspora to tackle the discriminatory attitudes and mindsets that stops girls and women from realising their potential.

And finally, how we want to take this further and work more closely with the diaspora, not just on individual projects but on wider development challenges and opportunities, and the future of international development.

Investing in people and growth

I’ve said the diaspora play a fundamental role in developing their countries of origin.

I believe this is because, quite simply, diaspora organisations thoroughly understand both the challenges and the opportunities in Africa. You have more natural links than any other organisations. You have the unique insights, perspectives and extensive in-country networks.

Take Esther, a British businesswoman, who was inspired by the mushroom farmers she met in her native Ghana to help cultivate a potentially lucrative but undeveloped industry.

In 2012, Esther set up a not-for-profit organization through Gem Consultancy to work in partnership with the national association of mushroom farmers.

With support from the Comic Relief Common Ground Initiative, which is co-funded by DIFD, they have already produced manuals, provided loans and training to over 50 farmers at a centre where they can also sell mushrooms a fair price.

This brilliant project is not only an investment in people, mushroom farmers who will increase their income and improve their standard of living, it is an investment in Ghana’s wider economy.

Esther herself says: “I’ve seen people put their children through university because of mushroom income. Helping farmers to become profitable could make things like this become more commonplace.”

And there are many more projects like this one.

From a new business centre supporting fast-growth SMEs in Sierra Leone, set up by the diaspora organisation AFFORD UK, or the CAME Women and Girls Development Organisation, a diaspora volunteering programme that helps disadvantaged women in Cameroon increase their income and support their families. Diaspora driven projects that invest in human development and ultimately economic development. Growing people to grow the economy.

I am proud that DFID is supporting so many of these projects, alongside Comic Relief, through the Common Ground Initiative, ensuring that bright ideas get the financial lift-off they need or helping existing projects to scale up and reach even greater numbers.

Over the next 5 years DFID will be investing a further £12 million in this scheme, directly helping more than a quarter of a million men, women and children.

The Girl Summit

DFID is also engaging with the diaspora in other ways, tapping into your expertise and utilising your networks. I’ve said the diaspora have a huge role to play when it comes to tackling the discriminatory beliefs and attitudes that keep too many women poor and marginalised.

This year DFID is taking a stand against two issues that are really critical symptoms of the low status of girls, a bit like a litmus test of how far we’ve got, Female Genital Mutilation and child, early and forced marriage.

The diaspora have a key role in ending these practises both in the UK and in their country of origin. I know many diaspora groups are already doing important work on these issues to break the silence and raise awareness.

In recognition of this as part of our flagship programme to end female genital mutilation, DFID is providing up to £1million to diaspora groups to support change in their country of origin…we will announce more details on how this will work shortly.

And next month Britain will host a Girl Summit 2014 to rally global support to consign child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation to the history books - bringing together governments, NGOs, charities, activists, businesses, young people, faith and diaspora groups.

DFID has been speaking to many diaspora groups in the buildup to the Summit and I’m very grateful for all the advice and support you’ve offered, it’s clear there’s huge commitment to these issues and a determination to do more.

And I want to really urge everyone here to pledge your support to our campaign. Next week we will be launching a social media campaign to end FGM and child and forced marriage in a generation.

So make sure you’re following DFID on Twitter or Facebook, look out for the campaign launching next week and help us to spread the word.

The future of African development

This is all important work, but I’ve said that I want to see a more systematic, more joined up approach to way DFID works with the diaspora community.

And I want to hear your views on how we can actualise that.

Since becoming International Development Secretary I’ve been determined to scale up the work we do with the diaspora community, not just through funding specific projects but by building greater policy dialogue with the diaspora. I want to hear from you on how we can do this better.

And there has really never been a more opportune moment to make your voice heard, as you will know, we are at a key moment for shaping the future of international development.

The deadline for the Millennium Development Goals for tackling global poverty is fast approaching and over the next year the international community will commit to a new set of goals

I want to see the diaspora really contributing to this debate, playing a key role in building and delivering an ambitious set of post-2015 development goals.

The progress we’ve made in Africa, and around the world, means we have a historic opportunity to end extreme poverty within our lifetimes, but this is in no sense inevitable.

To ensure we leave no one behind we are going to have to go beyond tackling the symptoms of poverty, and get to grips with the root causes.

I believe that means a much greater focus on building jobs and sustainable growth through economic development. It means gender needs to be a key focus post-2015. And underpinning all this, we can’t eradicate poverty without effective, transparent, accountable governments, strong and stable institutions and peaceful societies that ensure the rule of law, and guarantee access to justice.

Our Prime Minister refers to this as the Golden Thread of Development: building the kind of open societies and economies where everyone has a chance to reach their potential.

These are all issues that the UK will be pushing to be included in the post-2015 framework.

But we need everyone, the diaspora in particular to get out there and make their case for a really ambitious set of post-2015 goals that truly leave no one behind.

DFID is leading the UK’s engagement on post-2015 - tell us what you think, make your case.

The diaspora have played a vital role in Africa’s development, which we’re celebrating today and I want to challenge you to grasp this unprecedented opportunity to play a role in deciding the future of development in Africa.

I think the diaspora is a key asset for our country and I wanted to finish by saying that if you continue to work with us we will continue to work with you.

Published 18 June 2014