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. 


Interviewing Rubén Sánchez, Director of 'Zanmi'

Interviewing Rubén Sánchez, Director of 'Zanmi'
Categoria: Communication & Migration
Autor: Laura Manzi

‘Zamni' (2018) is one of the films that participated in the 2020 edition of the Global Migration Film Festival. The short film, which was selected to be screened at regional level by the Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean, narrates the experiences and daily lives of four Haitian migrants in Chile and their integration process in the South American country.

In this interview, the young director Rubén Sánchez, tells what objectives and motivations guided him towards the creation of the short film.

Why did you choose young Haitian migrants as the protagonists of your work? Is there something in their profile that makes them different from other migrant communities in Chile?

What struck us is that the Haitian population here in Chile is the one that finds it most difficult to integrate into society. One of the main reasons is that they speak another language, the Creole language, and that is an even bigger barrier considering that Chilean Spanish has many idioms and tends to be spoken very quickly. Another obstacle to integration is the racism and rejection of some sectors of society towards the Haitian population: whether because of ethnicity, nationality, language or other prejudices. This leads to more segregation and not integration.

In the short film, there are many scenes that portray different landscapes: the sea, the forest, the city. What is the role of nature in the integration process of migrants?

Climatic conditions and landscapes can be a challenge for integration. For example, Haiti is very flat, there are no mountains and the climate is tropical. Here in Chile, nature and microclimates are quite diverse (the north has higher temperatures, the south is more humid and rainy, while the central zone is a mixture of these).
Nature, however, has also a symbolic purpose in the documentary. The mountain range, which characterizes the Chilean landscape, is the great frontier that any person faces to reach Chile. This justifies the scene that opens and closes the film and represents one of the protagonists in the Embalse del Yeso, which is a place here in Santiago, in the middle of the mountain range. We wanted to film those scenes there as a more oneiric way of representing this enormous wall that is like a border to cross in order to reach Chile, and that at the same time symbolizes the great wall that is in the cultural shock that the Haitian population faces.

‘Life is a circle. A perfect circle of which we are not a part': the protagonists in the film have jobs, go to school, learn Spanish. Then, what are the elements that continue to prevent their integration into the host community, this 'circle' from which they are excluded?

The cultural shock is big. If the host society lives this 'fear of the unknown', the Haitian migrant population in turn reacts and this generates a fear of the community where they live. The lack of integration is made difficult by prejudice and because initiatives that value cultural richness are not promoted. I think this is what we lack as a society: to be more educated. If there is no good education, there will be no people who cannot integrate; we still need to be educated and 'humanized'. I feel that in some way we are also 'dehumanized'. This is what the documentary wants to capture: to reflect on the humanity that we need, the humanity that we need to integrate others, to show that we are all really the same, we are all human beings and we all have dreams.

How much is the director visible in his work? How come are you interested in the subject of migration?

The issue of Haitian migration was, for me, a personal concern, because I live in one of the cities in Chile with the largest Haitian population. I used to witness daily this rejection of the Haitian population in the eyes of the people, in comments that were exchanged by whispering in the bus when I went to the university. I was worried about that.
Also, before I enrolled in audiovisual communication, I studied social work, and had many courses on the migration issue and related social policies. I did a lot of research on Haitian migration, which allowed me to capture the central idea of the short film. During the shooting process, I had the opportunity to meet these young people (Haitian migrants), to live their culture, to taste their food. I was filled with a culture that I didn't know, I was filled with knowledge, with a new experience. I wish this documentary could reach more people, change who we are and cultivate our humanity.