The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has revealed its plans to harness diaspora funds, a move aimed at addressing food security and spurring sustainable agricultural development in West Africa and North Africa.
This initiative aims to not only revitalise agriculture but also promote broader structural transformation on the continent.
The announcement came during the second joint meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts for North Africa and West Africa closing ceremony, held in Accra.
Ngone Diop, Director-United Nations Economic Commission for West Africa, shared insights into the significance of diaspora funds in a recent interview.
“The diaspora funds are a reserve of knowledge and financial resources we have in West Africa and North Africa, and this is what we call the diaspora fund,” said Ms. Diop.
“We aim to ensure that this fund contributes to addressing issues such as investments in agriculture, with a broader focus on structural transformation. When we talk about structural transformation, we are working toward adding value to our resources,” she added.
Ms. Diop emphasised that this approach is particularly relevant in West Africa, which often grapples with abundant resources but faces the challenge of fully utilising them. She referred to this as the ‘paradox of plenty’, wherein the region has significant resources but struggles to convert them into tangible benefits.
In light of this, the diaspora fund is seen as an integral part of the long-term solution to overcome this paradox and bolster the region’s economic development, she said.
By channeling investments into agriculture and promoting structural transformation, the fund aims to create value and address food security challenges in a sustainable manner.
The ECA’s announcement aligns with broader objectives of the joint meeting in Accra. Delegates from North and West Africa convened to discuss pressing issues related to food security, energy transition and sustainable development in the region.
The meeting emphasised the importance of addressing these challenges collectively and from various angles. “We have come together to address food security and energy transition for sustainable development in our region,” highlighted Zuzanna Schwidrowski, Director-United Nations Economic Commission for North Africa. “We’ve formed new groups that approach these issues holistically, recognising the different challenges we face – from financing to understanding sub-regional dynamics.”
One of underlying theme of the discussions was recognition that addressing food security and energy challenges goes beyond immediate crisis. It involves tackling various interconnected issues, including economic, political and social factors.
The meeting also delved into specific challenges faced by West Africa, including political instability, and external crises such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which has contributed to rising prices. This has led to the need for a holistic approach to address the region’s security situation.
Notably, West Africa is currently grappling with the displacement of 2.1 million people – many of whom are crucial for agricultural productivity. Insecurity has forced them to leave their homes and farms, resulting in considerable economic and food security challenges.
To address this multifaceted issue, the approach outlined by Ms. Ngonediop highlighted two key aspects. Firstly, there is a political-economic dimension that seeks to establish a nexus between peace, humanitarian efforts and development. This approach aims to ensure that research and understanding the impact of conflict on agriculture and development informs policymaking and fosters political stability.
Secondly, it focuses on empowering the displaced population, particularly agricultural peasant farmers, by providing them with better security to return to their homes. This dimension acknowledges the financial costs involved and the challenging context of shrinking fiscal space. Nevertheless, it emphasises the need to innovate and find ways of making this approach feasible.