The Promota Magazine

Diasporas; Take the plunge. Better prospects back home!

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It was a balmy November evening in Accra – the kind for which al fresco dining at the city’s celebrated 223 Jazz Bar were surely made. Two huge plates of chicken kebab had been consumed and washed down with several bottles of crispy cool Star beer, and the house band was in the mood for both local and international classics.

If I were worried about who was going to collect the tab, I shouldn’t have been. For our host was Kwesi Owusu, a Ghanaian who’d distinguished himself as a cultural critic and trade justice activist in London, but who since returning to Accra seven years ago had experienced success the like of which those of us in the Diaspora could only dream of. “Don’t worry,” he said, in the manner of a dominant chief, as I reached tentatively for my wallet. He had it covered, not just for me, but for the six other people sitting round the table. Times were clearly good, and I wanted to know more.

I was in the city with colleagues from the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association to explore the interaction between broadcasting and gender relations with journalists and producers from the UK across West Africa. But during this, my eight trip home, I was determined to make real connections with people who’d managed to turn “brain drain” into “brain gain.” Who were these Ghanaians who’d left comfortable, albeit frustrating, careers in London, Texas, Berlin and Toronto, and taken the plunge by relocating permanently in Ghana? Were they mainly like my host, a fifty-something who’d spent twenty-five years outside the country, before coming back to launch Creative Storm, now Ghana’s leading media production company? Or did another friend, Elvina Quaison, a thirty-something British-born Ghanaian, who’d just quit her job in London to start a business concierge service in Accra, represent a new wave of returnee?.

As Kewsi and I talked I saw his expression change, from excitement when introducing me to yet another mover and shaker passing by our table, to gentle pity when I brought him up to date with his old friends in London. It was a struggle to match him stride for stride, because for all our achievements here in the UK and elsewhere, many of us are living unfulfilled lives. “Ghana is booming,” he said. “There is so much potential, so many people are returning, because despite the frustrations, you can really make things happen”.

Although he doesn’t realise it, since coming back to London I’ve used Kwesi and Elvina as role models to inspire Africans in the Diaspora to think beyond the concrete jungles of the big European and American cities so many of us call home.  And there are signs that the ground is more fertile now than at any time I can remember. In the last few weeks I’ve attended events geared at mobilising the African Diaspora organised by groups ranging from AFFORD to African Peoples Advocacy, from the Ugandan Convention in the UK and governments initiatives to the Royal African Society. While some of these organisations seek to persuade us to turn brain drain into brain gain others, like Homsetrings, invite us to invest our money in a smarter way, going beyond ordinary remittances to invest in Kenyan as opposed to Eurobonds. What’s clear is, the world is changing. The question is, how many of us will strike while the iron is hot?

by Henry Bonsu

Henry Bonsu is Director of Programmes on Colourful, and presents the Breakfast Show. “We at Colourful are determined to be leading conduit for this new Afro-optimism, a gateway to the Diaspora.”

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Diaspora One stop shop
www.ugandadiasporabureau.org
Resourceful website for Diasporans
www.ugandadiasporabureau.org
Uganda Diaspora Bureau
http://www.mofa.go.ug/diaspora
Contact Bati Kawooya for advise on Diaspora issue in Uganda

Diaspora One stop shop
www.diaspora-centre.org
The African Diaspora Policy Centre (ADPC) enables African Diaspora in Europe to connect more closely with the continent as a collective force.

Rwanda Diaspora
www.rwandandiaspora.gov.rw
Contains general  information on various issues like investment…

Kenya Overseas Business Alliance (KOBA)
www.koba-uk.com
KOBA is a business and investment based organization whose primary goal is to create and promote businesses and investment opportunities in Kenya within the Diaspora and to overseas investors.
 

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