On April 14, 2012, business and diaspora representatives from Germany, the Netherlands, Indonesia, South Sudan, Cameroon and many other countries as well as development practitioners came together in Frankfurt, Germany to discuss migrants’ role in the nexus of business and development.

The conference was jointly organised by the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit  (GIZ) and the Dutch Consortium of Migrant Organisations  (DCMO). About 90 people participated in the event. The objective was to not only raise awareness among all stakeholders about each other’s potential contribution in this cooperation, but mainly to focus on the development potential arising of it.

The main points of discussion emerging from the presentations were the increasing interest of development actors in cooperation with the private sector; and the attention of business representatives towards migrants and their specific skills. Despite the obvious being stated – namely that there is not only huge potential for profits in the business context, but at the same time development potential in this private sector and diaspora cooperation – strong arguments were brought forward why or why not European SMEs should be eager to engage in emerging markets in the global South.

High ranking speakers shared their experience in the context of diaspora in South-North/South-South business relations, the global South as investment region for European SMEs and thereby encountered challenges and opportunities and the development potential in the diaspora – business nexus.

Numerous practical examples from Turkish, Indonesian, Filipino and many other diaspora groups were shared to raise awareness about potential forms of cooperation of migrants, business and development cooperation.

One shining example of a very innovative and successful engagement of migrants in the world of business with a strong focus on development impacts is the Diaspora Business Centre in Kenya. It ideally combines business and social interests, paired with professional know-how by diaspora experts. In this context, innovative projects are currently being implemented in Kenya, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Ghana among others. Job creation and income generation in Somalia’s fishing sector offer new perspectives to young people; with the long-term objective of reducing poverty and crime. Furthermore, by facilitating knowledge exchange in a specific (post) conflict context with Sri Lanka’s fishing sector, the diaspora contributed to strengthen South-South relations as well.

SME representatives focused on the particular roles migrants can have in a business context, deriving from their specific skills (e.g. languages, intercultural competences etc.), networks in countries of origin, and interest in development impacts in regions of the global South.

Four parallel working groups engaged the participants in very active discussions about “Potential fields and forms of cooperation of the Diaspora and the private sector”; “Success factors for a mutually beneficial cooperation of the Diaspora and the private sector”, “Contributions to development through the cooperation of the Diaspora with the private sector and civil society”, “The contribution of governmental organisations both from North and South to business development of the Diaspora”.

The outcomes of the working groups and overall conclusions of the event were that…

… the private sector recognizes the potential of Diaspora members for venturing into new markets of the South. There is potential for Diaspora-business cooperation!

… however, the knowledge about the Diaspora’s assets is not very widespread yet in both the corporate sector and among development cooperation actors. Migrants organizations need to enhance their visibility!

… the Diaspora members’ knowledge about the corporate world is not very deep, either. All actors need to get to know each other better!

… actors of countries of origin – both on government and private sector level – are not always actively involved in business development projects. Ensure ownership!

… when dealing with the private sector and government representatives, professionalism is required.

Stephanie Deubler (GIZ) and Rahime Diallo (ADPC on behalf of DCMO) 2012

The next Building Bridges. Diaspora for Business and Development – conference will be hosted by DCMO in the Netherlands in 2013. Further information as well as presentations held at the conference can be found at www.diasporabusinessdev.com.

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