The African Diaspora, or people of native African origin living outside the continent, has been referred to by the African Union as the sixth region. This group includes African Americans, their descendants, and nearly two million African immigrants who have close familial, social, and economic connections to the continent. On December 13-15, 2021, President Biden hosted leaders from across the African continent in Washington, DC for the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit to discuss a range of topics with the Biden-Harris Administration, congressional leaders, US diplomats, business leaders, and the African diaspora. President Biden’s commitment to strengthening the dialogue between U.S. officials and the Diaspora in the United States was reflected during the summit with pre-summit gatherings at the state department and the African and Diaspora Young Leaders Forum. The President committed $55 billion to the African continent over the next three years with “$15 billion in new trade and investment commitments, deals, and partnerships.
The African Diaspora have become increasingly important in politics, policymaking, sports, academia, and entrepreneurship both in their newfound home and their home country. In 2020, the Nigerian diaspora community in Washington DC protested at the Nigerian embassy against police brutality #ENDSARS. During the Africa Leaders’ Summit, pockets of the diaspora communities held various protests in DC condemning their home country leaders while also expressing disappointment in the President's decision to invite them to the summit. The region has also been recognized for their massive contributions through remittances, sending over $60 billion in 2022.
Black storytelling is not monolithic and African, African Diaspora, and African American experiences differ and should not be conflated. US officials must ensure that programs designed for the African diaspora community are well-targeted to meet the needs of the group. Despite their contributions, the African Diaspora community is underserved and underrepresented in many spheres in the United States. The African Diaspora is an integral part of the African continent, and their contributions should be recognized and supported. The Biden-Harris Administration is taking the initiative to restore relations with the continent and recognize the potential of the African Diaspora, and there is much more that can be done to ensure they are better served and represented in the United States.
To support this, the U.S. administration has launched the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement in the United States (PAC-ADE). This council seeks to enhance the dialogue between U.S. officials and the African Diaspora, in order to advance equity and opportunity and strengthen cultural, social, political, and economic ties.
The U.S. has invested in Diaspora engagement, including through its support for higher education and workforce development, the creative industries, and environmental equity. It has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) to expand Diaspora commercial engagement across Africa, and to increase access and awareness of their financial products, as well as to support exports of U.S. goods and services. It has also provided funding for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), which seeks to invest in the next generation of African leaders, as well as for the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), the University Partnerships Initiative (UPI), and the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) Partnerships. In addition, the USADF has launched an annual Diaspora Award to fund U.S.-based businesses owned and led by members of the African Diaspora, and the Department of State has provided $500,000 for a Global Leaders – African Descent Social Entrepreneurship Program to engage social entrepreneurs of African descent globally. Finally, the Department of State plans to convene U.S. higher education representatives and education stakeholders from across the continent in May 2023 to explore strategies for increasing the recruitment and retention of African students on a range of U.S. campuses.
The Biden-Harris Administration's commitment to the African Diaspora is an encouraging step forward for the community. The U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit has provided a platform for the African Diaspora to be heard and valued. However, the Biden-Harris Administration must take further steps to ensure that the African Diaspora are not only heard but also seen. This means providing resources to the African Diaspora to ensure that they are able to participate in the economic, political, and social life of the United States. The U.S. must also continue to invest in Diaspora engagement and support initiatives that will strengthen the ties between the continent and its descendants. This is a crucial moment for the African Diaspora, and the Biden-Harris Administration must take meaningful steps to ensure that their potential is not overlooked.
Highlighting Diaspora Focused Engagements:
PAC-ADE is a newly established Presidential Advisory Council on African-American and African-immigrant Diaspora Engagement (PAC-ADE). The council is comprised of diverse representatives from African-American and African-immigrant communities who have achieved success in government, sports, creative industries, business, academia, social work, and faith-based activities. It is intended to provide information, analysis, and recommendations to the President on strategies to advance equity and opportunity for African Diaspora communities. PAC-ADE will focus on ways to support the United Nations’ Permanent Forum on People of African Descent, programs and initiatives to strengthen cultural, social, political, and economic ties among the African communities, the global African Diaspora, and the United States, and programs and initiatives to improve the socioeconomic wellbeing of African Diaspora communities. The council will also seek to expand educational exchange programs between Africa and the United States, increase public- and private-sector collaboration, and increase the participation of members of the African Diaspora in the United States with regard to trade, investment, economic growth, and development programs relating to Africa.
Expansion of Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) – YALI is the US effort under President Obama to invest in the next generation of African leaders; to include connections with the Diaspora and the include a new Young African Leaders Exchange, which will be the first pan-African virtual platform allowing the Diaspora and other key stakeholders to directly connect with YALI alumni.
Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM): A $500 million Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to expand Diaspora commercial engagement across Africa between EXIM and the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and to increase access and awareness of both institutions’ financial products, and support exports of U.S. goods and services in a variety of sectors.
EXIM bank signed over $1 billion of MOUs during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit to foster economic opportunity and support jobs throughout Africa and the United States.
African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP): The Vice President announced plans to provide, working with Congress, $1 million for AWEP, which will fund small grants to train women entrepreneurs and support women-owned businesses in sub-Saharan Africa.
University Partnerships Initiative (UPI): The Vice President announced the Department of Education will provide $1.5 million to facilitate U.S.-Africa university exchanges, joint research, collaboration on academic administration, and public-private partnerships.
U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) Partnerships: The USADF will partner with philanthropic foundations to leverage Diaspora ties and support African entrepreneurship
USADF Inaugural Annual Diaspora Award: USADF launched an annual award Diaspora Award that will provide funding for U.S.-based businesses owned and led by members of the African Diaspora to strengthen trade and investment relationships with African small and medium enterprises.
Global Leaders – African Descent Social Entrepreneurship Program: The Department of State intends to provide $500,000 to engage social entrepreneurs of African descent globally and launch the African Descent Social Entrepreneurship Network, a tool for leaders to share best practices for economic prosperity through social entrepreneurship, and collaborate with like-minded partners. The inaugural program will connect 52 foreign participants and 25 Americans and include collaboration with Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Atlanta, San Antonio, and New Orleans.
Global Leaders – African Descent Social Entrepreneurship Program: In May 2023 in South Africa, the Department of State plans to convene U.S. higher education representatives and education stakeholders from across the continent to explore strategies for increasing the recruitment and retention of African students on a range of U.S. campuses. The event will place particular focus on building relationships with future leaders, diversifying student pipelines, and matching international training and educational opportunities with local workforce and economic development needs.
By Abolaji Omitogun