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Reports (Research Report) Year : 2010

Building bonds for migration and development. Diaspora engagement policies of Ghana, India and Serbia


Origin countries' governments are increasingly adopting policies to attract the resources of their migrants and their communities to stimulate development. These policies, sometimes referred to as 'diaspora engagement policies', range from securing the rights and protection of migrants while they are abroad, to strengthening the migrants' sense of national identity and their linkages to the origin country and promoting remittances, financial investments and contributions to development. This study examines migrant communities and organisations from three countries - Ghana, India and Serbia - and explores how the governments of these countries have perceived 'their' respective migrants and, more specifically, the way in which these governments have attempted to engage migrants and their organisations in the interest of national development. The strategies adopted demonstrate various levels of commitment to policies for migrants. At times governments accommodate the needs of migrants into existing policies; other times they design new policies to support the specific needs of migrant communities and some other times they decide not to introduce any national policy to engage the diasporas. In fact, recognizing the value of migrants does not necessarily translate into concrete policies that welcome them to take part in national development. The present study focuses specifically on how origin country governments have formulated and implemented four specific policies: I Facilitation of remittance transfers and finance investments. Several countries have introduced policies to encourage official remittances including increasing the competition among money transfer services leading to reduced transfer fees, expanding the banking and transfer service networks to reach remote areas, and introducing remittance receivers to banking services and savings schemes. In some cases these changes have occurred thanks to financial reforms introduced by governments to open the market to competition and liberalise the foreign exchange. Many obstacles still exist to channel remittances from informal to formal services, not the least the persistent lack of trust of some migrants towards their government and, more generally, the fact that transferring money formally often provides more advantages to the government and service agencies than to the migrants. II Promotion of migrants' investment in small-to-medium size enterprises (SMEs) in the origin countries. SMEs represent an exciting potential both for migrants and their origin countries. Most countries, including Ghana, India and Serbia, are willing to dedicate resources to either create institutions to support migrants' enterprises or to promote public events to encourage the diasporas to become part of a transnational network of entrepreneurs. However, the general investment climate in the origin countries continues to be the principal concern of migrants interested in SME development and overall most of the entrepreneurial activities supported by migrants in origin countries are still the result of autonomous activities of individual migrants rather than specific investment programmes. III Encouraging the transfer and circulation of skills. The government of India has created a systematic method to attract the skills and the human capital of its diaspora for the development of various sectors of the Indian economy. Ghana's main concern remains the health sector and it is acting to prevent the departure of its health professionals as well as on attracting Ghanaians abroad to provide temporary service in the national health system. Serbia's interest in this area has not yet been matched by actual policies. The future outcomes of the policies enacted by India are awaited as they will provide valuable lessons for other countries. IV Implementation of collective development projects initiated by migrant organisations. Migrants' potential for development has always been present and migrants have participated in development activities independently or as part of migrant associations for decades. By and large, collective development projects continue to be designed and implemented by migrants and their associations without the intervention of international development agencies or governmental bodies. In the Serbian case, the diaspora has requested the government to provide greater guidance to migrant 4 associations so that they can direct their resources to areas of need. India has recently established an institution to provide such guidance. The case of Ghana offers an alternative view as migrant associations are reluctant to participate in large projects where they do not know personally local actors, particularly if government agencies are involved. As a result, the Ghanaian government's strategy so far has been to showcase the achievements of migrant organisations' projects rather than to intervene. The study also identifies certain aspects that seem to affect the way in which origin country governments respond to their diasporas:  Government's perceptions of its own migrants shape the manner in which migrants are described in public discourse, whether they are seen as a positive or negative force and, as a consequence, whether they are included or excluded from national policy. A country's migration history and trends greatly influence these perceptions and will shape the strategy adopted by a government towards its migrant communities.  The historical relations between a government and its migrants and their communities abroad greatly determine the policy approach taken by a government. Migrant communities that have historically been suspicious of the government's intentions will require much more reassurance from the state that its activities are promoted in the genuine interest of migrants. Establishing positive linkages will be much less difficult for governments that have maintained contact with their migrant communities over time.  The contributions that migrants can make to development may appear to easily fit into a country's national interests. However, it can be difficult for a government to include migrants in its national development plan as migrants add an extra set of interest to existing arrangements. Origin country governments also have the delicate task to find a good balance between the rights provided to migrants and nonmigrants.  Even when a government sees value in engaging its diasporas and believes that a long-term collaboration with migrants could lead to development, it might not have the necessary resources or the institutional capacity to design, implement and evaluate diaspora engagement policies. These policies in fact require the participation of various government departments, which must reach agreement to design cohesive policies and coordinate their implementation. Such availability of time and resources might not always be available in countries where there are more pressing national priorities.  A country's level of development and, even more importantly, a government's commitment to improvement through economic, financial, and social reforms seem to have a strong effect on the outcomes of diaspora engagement policies. Persistent low transparency and accountability, extensive bureaucratic processes and high levels of corruption reduce migrants' interest in becoming involved in development. In some countries, migrants' lack of trust in the government will discourage them from becoming involved in development, particularly when migration and development initiatives involve government agencies.  Pressure from governments and international agencies might push origin countries that are not interested or ready to engage migrants to commit to diaspora engagement policies. These activities seldom turn into action or last beyond the initial period of funding. Government policies to support migrants' involvement in development, as much as migration and development initiatives promoted by international development agencies, must be designed with a clear understanding of the characteristics of the migrants they are meant to support, of the historical relations that exist between the government and its migrants, and the interests and the objectives of the diasporas. Migrants should be given the opportunity to negotiate their own role in national development and to influence development policies. In the end, to be appealing, policies to engage migrants should provide added value not only for the government and its specific projects, but also for migrants who often go beyond their personal call of duty to lend a hand in the development of their origin country.
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Dates and versions

halshs-00820771 , version 1 (06-05-2013)
halshs-00820771 , version 2 (31-03-2016)


  • HAL Id : halshs-00820771 , version 2


Simona Vezzoli, Thomas Lacroix. Building bonds for migration and development. Diaspora engagement policies of Ghana, India and Serbia. [Research Report] International Migration Institute, Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ). 2010. ⟨halshs-00820771v2⟩
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