Definition of the Diaspora

Different scholars have defined Diaspora differently, mostly in the field of migration and development. The Diaspora is made up of migrants from a particular area living scattered outside their place of birth but remaining in contact with it through transnational linkages.

The African Union has defined the African Diaspora as “consisting of people of African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union.”

The following definition has also been used to simply the complexity of the term: “individuals originating from one country, living outside that country, irrespective of their citizenship or nationality, who, individually or collectively, are or could be willing to contribute to the development of their country. Descendants of these individuals are also included in this definition”.

In the Rwandan context, Rwandan Diaspora refers in general to all Rwandans who left their country voluntarily or were forced to live in other countries of the world and are willing to contribute to the development of Rwanda.

Socio-economic importance of the Rwandan Diaspora

It is obvious that all the categories of Rwandan Diaspora are involved in formal or informal relationships with Rwanda and Rwandan residents (families, business partners…) through remittances and other types of transfers.

1. Remittances

A survey by the National Bank of Rwanda showed that remittances from the Diaspora represent almost 50% of the foreign currency exchanged on Kigali exchange market and is increasing very fast. From $60 million in 2006, remittances from Diaspora were $103Million in 2007 and are amounting to over 150
million US dollars for the year 2008. Three quarter (¾) of this amount is from informal transfers and is probably underestimated. These remittances are used in different sectors like real estate development or community development and poverty alleviation.

(i) Real estate development
Diaspora has been remarkable for the construction of high standard buildings mostly in Rwandan urban centers and is linked with the recent development real estate market services (mortgage finance; this increases high propensity of saving and housing market in Rwandan economy).

(ii) Community Development and poverty alleviation
Another part of these transfers is used by families to solve their day to day problems (health, education, welfare), thus participating in the national poverty alleviation effort. The available data reveals that Rwandan Diaspora have also manifested interest in supporting disabled and vulnerable communities in Rwanda, mostly the survivors of genocide, in areas of education, empowering the small scale businesses of vulnerable, and infrastructure development mostly in rural areas.

2. Knowledge and Skills transfers

Knowledge transfer can be done through volunteer services (like in MIDA or TOKTEN programs), shortterm consultancy services or partnership between local and Diaspora professionals organizations.

3. Socio-political importance of the Diaspora

Rwandan Diaspora also proved to be a breeding ground for a new, development oriented generation of leaders in all sectors, and a barrier to the spreading of genocide ideologies. It also plays a significant role in the building of a new image for Rwanda abroad.