Engagement of the Caribbean Diaspora: A Potential for Development

Engagement of the Caribbean Diaspora: A Potential for Development

One of the most striking demographic figures in the Caribbean region is the one-to-one ratio of nationals living in their home countries and the members of the diaspora living abroad: 

“There is nearly one person living abroad in the diaspora to every person still resident within the Caribbean, making the diaspora an untapped potential resource for economic development” – World Bank, 2013.

This figure can be perceived as an opportunity to unlock a potential growth in the economy and development of this region if managed adequately.  

It has been demonstrated in various studies that the diaspora from this region is both highly educated and highly engaged, not only from a nationalistic approach but also regionally, and they wish to be even more connected.  

More than 85% of the members of the Caribbean diaspora are active investors in their home countries, particularly in real estate. Most of the support from the diaspora goes to charity, remittance-investments to support relatives with small businesses, and other entrepreneurship investments. Additionally, it could bring added value to job creation and productivity increases through more investments, as well as through mentoring.  

Even though there is a high percentage of people of this community expressing their interest in investing and get involved in some way, the findings in the study “Diaspora Investing: The Business and Investment Interests of the Caribbean abroad” shows that the gap between real engagement (13 %) and expressed interest (85%) remains significant.  

A justification of that can be exemplified with the results of a statistical report made by IOM in 2017, that mapped the Diaspora in Jamaica, which identifies that despite the diaspora’s expressed interest in forming business relationships with Jamaica, concerns were also emphasized in terms of high corruption levels (16%); high crime and violence rates (13%); distrust of potential business partners in Jamaica (13%); the economy’s instability (11%); and the difficulty in doing business in Jamaica (10%). 

Considering these facts, governments should be responsible for supporting and fostering these interests by: 

  • Creating new policies and strategies that provide incentives to these key members; reducing barriers and bureaucratic processes, and increase information transparency, so that they could play an even bigger role in contributing to the region’s development. The weak legal enforcement and regulations among countries is making it difficult to unravel the potential demand for investments among the diaspora. 
  • Data collection - Conducting diaspora mappings to understand what their interests are in order to develop investment opportunities tailored to their needs. 
  • Establishing dedicated units or agencies and invest in channels to promote the diaspora’s engagement in their home country’s development efforts. An example of this can be the development of an online mechanism that could facilitate networking between professionals overseas and in the region, where the diaspora could mentor and recommend good practices with like-minded individuals in the region.  
  • Creating formal platforms to facilitate communication between policymakers and members of the diaspora, that allows them to actively participate in decision-making, while also generating awareness of investment opportunities. 

It is clear that the Caribbean diaspora can play a  critical role in the development of the region; there is, therefore, an urgent need for new and creative thinking to find ways to lower barriers to engagement, and to create a holistic and structured regional agenda, formed through dialogue between key specialists, decision-makers, and diasporas from all countries of the region, to deliver strategies that will address issues affecting the region. 

  


In a distant country, Erick daydreams - #MigrantsDay

In a distant country, Erick daydreams - #MigrantsDay
Categoria: Return and Reintegration
Autor: Laura Manzi

Story based on the testimony of Erick Galeas, a returnee.

The outbound journey

The heat was suffocating, as if the breaths of fresh air had forgotten that point in the world, where an immense dryness permeated every corner. The ground burned, the sun gave no truce. And this was no small matter: Erick hated the heat, which only made him feel tired and weak.

On those long days with his skin so exposed to the sun, he would try to find some place in the shade to relax for a little while, alone with his thoughts. It may seem absurd, but at that moment, instead of worrying and being overcome by fear and agitation due to the long-awaited trip, the only thing he could think of was that sweater that he intended to buy once arrived in the United States. He wanted to live in a cold place, this was clear to him, to buy a lot of coats and scarves, and to have frozen hands. Wasn't that part of the American dream too? To be able to escape that dryness and have a closet full of sweaters?

The city of Tijuana, in Mexico, served as the setting for Erick's mental wanderings. It had been also his temporary residence for almost a month. Residence, not home. Erick had been living far away from home for nine months, since he left Honduras and began his journey: one day in Guatemala, one month in Chiapas, six months in Veracruz, then Ciudad Juárez and now there, Tijuana. Nine long months treasuring the desire to be able to find better economic opportunities and support his family that he left behind, which was enthusiastic about the idea of being able to receive some remittances.

To fight for his wish, Erick had to pay for his trip by working, doing whatever job he could find, often up to sixteen hours a day for a paltry salary. But that was not a time to be discouraged, because the next day Erick was going to cross the Mexican border into the United States, after having paid 7 thousand dollars  to a smuggler who promised to finally take him to his destination. This is how Erick's last trip to the north began: early in the morning, on any given Tuesday.

You may have noticed that Erick's imagination led him to daydreaming very often, and at the beginning of his journey, after months of malnutrition, he was wondering what his first meal in the US would have tasted like. Surely it would have been the most delicious meal of the last nine months, a meal that tastes of success ... And then wham!, his reverie was suddenly interrupted. An immigration police officer instantly nullified all of Erick's efforts, who was arrested shortly after. But that was not the end of his journey; little did he know that he still had six months to spend in detention: first in California, then in Arizona, Ohio, Louisiana, and Michigan. In his fantasy there were no police officers or detainees; however, this was the only image that Erick could capture from the United States.

How angry he felt when the comments of people who said "it is easy to get to the United States" and "it is a matter of one, maximum two weeks" came to mind. The lack of truthful and adequate information had been an accomplice to his misadventure. Erick was tired, disappointed, and alone. He was also afraid, because in the detention centers there were not only migrants seeking a better life, but also some common criminals who intimidated others, exacerbating their feelings of discomfort. For Erick, the only chance for peace was those few minutes of calls that he could share with his family. He told them that he was afraid that the US authorities would deport him to Honduras, and on the 175th day of his arrest, that was precisely what happened.

The return journey 

A bittersweet taste marked Erick's return. Not being able to fulfill his long-awaited American dream made him feel frustrated, almost ashamed and humiliated. His overwhelming sense of failure disappeared for a moment when, after almost a year and a half, he could finally hug his son. "Children grow up so fast," Erick thought. But the little boy was not the only one who had grown up in all that time; Erick had also gone through an enormous process of personal growth, and he had acquired an incredible strength.

Oh, and there was also the Honduran food. That really made his return happy!

It was not easy, it was not quick, but after a long path, on a day like today we can imagine Erick dealing with his daily tasks at his handicraft company in Honduras. His small family-run atelier became a company that sells its products nationwide: souvenir-type crafts that include a large sample of boats, helicopters and airplanes, all made of wood. It is a business that allows him and his family to live with better economic conditions than when Erick decided to venture to the United States.

His work activity was also able to flourish thanks to the help of the IOM (International Organization for Migration), which provided him with the necessary machinery for his work, and also to the CASM (Mennonite Social Action Commission), whose course on entrepreneurship strengthened Erick's management skills. The feeling of frustration that he experienced when he returned to Honduras has been transformed step by step into a feeling of satisfaction and happiness a he saw his business growing and gained greater confidence in himself, in his talent and ability. The training courses and the support provided helped him through a difficult process of return and reintegration, and empowered the young migrant on his return home.

Erick was able to build his economic subsistence and his professional fulfillment in Honduras, and among so many complex and unfortunate stories, this is a story with a happy ending. Even so, from time to time, he cannot help but daydream, thinking about what it would be like to travel to the United States again, this time legally, and stay there, even just for one day: to eat at a different restaurant and buy a thick winter sweater.