Innovative Group Hopes to Harness the $40 Bil Sent to Africa by Africans

An innovative new organization called Africans in the Diaspora (AiD) has been created to combine the resources of Africans around the globe to change the way that Africa is perceived and to give Africans and others the ability to directly contribute to groups working on the continent to bring about change and transformation.

The organization hopes to harness the $40 billion in remittances that Africans in the diaspora send to the continent every year and redirect that money to groups that are working hard in African communities.

“Representations and discussions of Africa often focus on its socioeconomic and political challenges, and paint a single narrative around those,” AiD explains on its website. “We know there is more to our rich and complex stories. Africans are working tirelessly to bring about change, creating, innovating, and building a better future.”

Aid sent to Africa from various aid organizations around the world is typically the only aid that most people see when it comes to the continent, but Africans in the Diaspora wants to change the conversation by categorizing the $40 billion in remittances—which far exceeds the funds that comes from aid organization—as aid to the continent coming directly from other Africans. In this way, Africans around the globe who send money back home can be viewed as key partners and stakeholders in the development of the continent.

“I firmly believe that transformational change in Africa requires Africans to take a lead in the process,” said Solome Lemma, the organization’s co-founder and executive director. “’Aid’ and ‘development’ shouldn’t be exports when there are invaluable skills, resources, and ideas within and from Africa. Africans are the continent’s most important resource and many of us in the Diaspora want to invest in the continent’s future. After years of working in and on Africa, I have realized that we leverage our passions, knowledge, and resources best when we support and amplify the social change innovations and solutions being spearheaded by Africans in Africa.”

One of the key mechanisms the AiD organization has employed is a growing database of effective local groups in Africa that will be listed and described on its website. Interested donors can scroll through the database and find organizations in which to invest. Among the organizations currently being supported by AiD is Physicians for Social Justice, which works in northern rural Nigeria, WEM Integrated Health Services, based in Mwingi, Kenya, and Synapse Center, which is trying to reduce the high unemployment rate in Senegal.

AiD describes the process this way:

We find, vet, and profile the most promising organizations.

You review, select, and invest in the organizations that speak to your interests and passion.

We send the resources to those partners.

We continue to engage with them and update you on the progress of their project.

We show you the impact of your investments.

“Is this an investment with returns?” AiD says on its website. “Yes, but your returns are social, measured by the change these organizations bring about in their communities. Once you’ve invested in AiD’s partner organizations, you become part of the AiD community. You will receive quarterly updates on the progress of the organization you’ve invested in as well as exclusive educational materials on Africa, Social Entrepreneurship, Philanthropy, and Diaspora Affairs.”

“To see transformational change in Africa, Africans must become leaders and drivers of that change,” the organization says. “We can do so in partnership with allies, friends, and invested partners. We can’t however remain the beneficiaries and dependents, when there are sufficient resources, skills, and ideas within and from Africa. AiD is our contribution and our way of disrupting, re-imagining, and reshaping the meaning of ‘aid.’”

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