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Madagascar: Diaspora and Development.

The Malagasy blogosphere was abuzz with discussions regarding the role of the diaspora in the development of Madagascar. This is a recurrent theme in the Malagasy blogosphere and in African development think-tank in general.
Sipakv wrote (Fr) :

“Deja a l’epoque, le role de la diaspora se discutait ferme, et le contenu ne differait guere de ce qui se dit en ce moment, meme si les participants ont change. Il y a toujours les enthousiastes, les cyniques, les indifferents, les Malagasy restes au pays qui refusent carrement a la diaspora tout apport au developpement, au vu de leur absence au pays et de leur ignorance supposee quant aux conditions et aux besoins locaux. Et il y a aussi, ceux qui reprochent a la diaspora, a tort ou a raison, une approche arrogante.”

Back then, the role of the diaspora was intensively discussed and the content of what was said then did not differ much from what is being said now even though the participants have changed. There are always the enthusiastic ones, the cynical ones, the indifferent, the ones who stayed home and refuse to acknowledge any contribution from the Diaspora because of their absence and their supposed ignorance of the conditions and needs of the locals. There are also those who blame the diaspora, legitimately or not, for their arrogant approach.

village with internet
Many bloggers went to task when it came to concretely contribute to the development of ITC in Madagascar. The nonprofit organization Foko-madagascar created a monthly blog club meeting to promote citizen journalism in Madagascar and encourage people to share their stories on the web.
Other organizations such as namana serasera have had a long outstanding record for helping develop ITC in schools among other socially-driven actions. Their initiatives are strongly supported by Malagasy bloggers at home and abroad.
Similar type of collaborations between Malagasy continents apart have fueled the growth of Global Voices in Malagasy which has posted 178 posts in 2 ½ months and gained a substantial readership despite the hurdles of being one of the less spoken languages in the world.
Yet, the question remains, is the Malagasy diaspora doing enough for their homeland ?
Vaomiera’s take on the role of the diaspora (Fr):

“je pense que la diaspora a beaucoup plus de role à jouer en apportant sa competence (dans differents domaines) au sein d’entreprises existantes, en soutenant les nouvelles entreprises, en recherchant des financements, en financant des projets de developpement, […]
La force et la raison d’existence d’une diaspora sont resumées ainsi: “regard” tourné vers le pays”

I believe that the diaspora has a major role to play by adding its expertise ( in different domains ) to the existing companies, supporting the newly formed companies, seeking funds, funding development-based projects, helping local initiatives [..] The strength and the raison d’etre of a diaspora resides in the fact that its sight is turn towards its country of origin.

Thenonrequired relates a telling story of the hurdles that the diaspora sometimes faces when it comes to returning home and contributing (Fr):

“Première tentative pour rentrer à Schgeumland. Envoi de CVs. Réaction d’un des DG des entreprises ciblées: “Mais qu’est-ce-qu’il a à rentrer à Madagascar? Il n’y a pas de job ici pour ses compétences. Il ferait mieux de rester où il est…”.Deuxième tentative (4 ans plus tard) pour rentrer à Schgeumland. Envoi d’un CV. Réaction du recruiteur: “Mais il est surdiplômé ! Il est sur-qualifié ! Qu’est-ce-qu’il veut? Il n’y a pas de job pour lui ici.”

there was the 1st “back-to-Madagascar” try. I sent resumés. Here is the reaction from the CEO of one of my targeted companies” Why does he want to come back to Maldagascar ? There is no job here for his skill-level. He’d be better off staying where he is….2nd try ( 4 years later). Send resumés. Reaction of the recruiter: “He is overqualified. What does he want ? There is no work for him here…”

Rajiosy wonders why he feels like the obligation to give back is heavier on the African diaspora than on others (Fr):

“Il semblerait que l’obligation de “développer” son pays d’origine ne soit imposée qu’aux ressortissants d’Afrique […]J’aurai tendance à croire que tout malgache ayant fait le choix de vivre ailleurs, travaille en premier lieu à la richesse de son lieu de résidence/pays d’adoption. […]De là à dire qu’il contribue également à la richesse globale des malgaches (du monde entier) par lui-même, par ses enfants, par sa communauté bref par son histoire. C’est le pas que je franchis allègrement…”

“It seems as if the need to “develop” their country of origin is only incumbent upon Africans. […] I would tend to believe that any Malagasy that made the choice to live abroad is first and foremost contributing to the wealth of his place of adoption/residence. […] However, I gladly make the argument that he also contributes to the overall wealth of Malagasies everywhere by his actions, his children, his community and his history….

Whether through conversations or direct actions, it seems that the blogosphere is abounding with bloggers with a will to contribute to the development of their homeland or at least, a will to understand the need for giving back.
Harnessing this goodwill was the topic of conversation during a meeting with the founder of the Ubuntu Institute.
To encourage bloggers to continue the conversation online on various topics, a “Best of Malagasy blogs Awards” has been planned for launching in the coming weeks.

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