By Charles Simplice Mbatsogo Mebo | Issue #22
Diasporas have emerged as significant actors in shaping the social, economic, and political landscapes of their countries of origin. In the case of Cameroon, the Cameroonian diaspora has been instrumental in providing social protection to their families and communities back home. This article explores the impacts, dynamics, and future opportunities of diasporas in the context of social protection in Cameroon, shedding light on the transformative potential they possess and the purposes for further enhancement.
Impacts of diasporic contributions
The Cameroonian diaspora consists of diverse individuals and groups spread across the globe, actively contributing to the development of Cameroon in various forms: remittances, knowledge transfer, philanthropic activities, investments and entrepreneurship, advocacy and policy engagement, cultural preservation and promotion, academic and research collaboration. Although the Cameroonian diaspora is not a homogeneous group, and the forms of engagement may vary among individuals and communities (based on their location, resources, and interests), the collective contributions of the diaspora in all its forms play a vital role in the development of Cameroon. The impact of Cameroonian diaspora contributions on social protection is profound and multifaceted. One key channel through which diasporas support their communities is remittances. According to the World Bank, Cameroon received approximately $299 million in remittances in 2020, with a significant portion coming from the diaspora. These financial inflows help families meet basic needs, such as healthcare, education, and housing, thereby bolstering social protection at the household level.
Beyond remittances, diasporas also engage in philanthropic activities that address broader community needs. For instance, the Cameroon Solidarity in the United Kingdom (CAS-UK) launched the "Education for All" initiative. This project provides scholarships to underprivileged children in Cameroon. Such initiatives directly contribute to enhancing access to education and empowering vulnerable segments of society.
In addition, diaspora members bring valuable skills, knowledge, and expertise back to Cameroon. They transfer their experiences gained abroad to their home communities, fostering capacity building and human capital development. This knowledge transfer is particularly evident in sectors such as healthcare, where diaspora medical professionals collaborate with local practitioners to improve healthcare services and infrastructure.
Dynamics and challenges
While the contributions of the Cameroonian diaspora are undeniable, several dynamics and challenges must be addressed to maximise their impact on social protection. One key challenge is the lack of coordination between diaspora actors and government institutions. Without effective collaboration, the potential transformative power of diaspora contributions remains untapped. Establishing platforms for dialogue and cooperation between diaspora organisations and relevant government agencies is crucial to ensure a more coordinated approach to social protection.
Another dynamic to consider is the diversity within the diaspora. Different diaspora communities have varying levels of resources, networks, and opportunities. Recognizing this diversity and leveraging it effectively can lead to targeted interventions that address specific social protection needs. As an illustration, the Cameroon Professional Society (CPS), a diaspora organisation in the United States, focuses on empowering Cameroonian professionals abroad and fostering partnerships to promote entrepreneurship and job creation in Cameroon.
The future holds tremendous potential for enhancing the impact of diaspora contributions on social protection in Cameroon. One opportunity lies in strengthening the role of diaspora actors as advocates for policy change. Through their experiences abroad, diaspora members possess unique insights into best practices in social protection from other countries. By actively engaging in policy dialogue and sharing their expertise, they can influence the development and implementation of more effective social protection programs.
Moreover, technology offers new avenues for diaspora engagement. Online platforms and digital tools enable diaspora members to connect, collaborate, and contribute more efficiently. For example, the "DiasporaEngager" platform facilitates matchmaking between diaspora members and local organisations, fostering partnerships that promote social development projects in Cameroon. Embracing digital innovation can help overcome geographic barriers and strengthen diaspora engagement in social protection efforts.
The Cameroonian diaspora plays a vital role in providing social protection to their families and communities. Through remittances, philanthropic activities, and knowledge transfer, diaspora members serve as catalysts for positive change. However, to fully harness their potential, collaboration and coordination between diaspora actors and government institutions are essential. By recognizing the expertise and experiences of diaspora members and involving them in policy dialogue, Cameroon can create a more inclusive and effective approach to social protection. With the right policies and mechanisms in place, the impact of diaspora contributions on social protection in Cameroon can be significantly enhanced.
Thus, it is crucial to prioritise financial literacy and entrepreneurship training among diaspora members. By equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge, they can make informed investment decisions that generate sustainable returns for their communities. Additionally, establishing diaspora investment funds or platforms can streamline the process of directing resources towards targeted projects, ensuring that social protection initiatives are impactful and well-supported.
Furthermore, embracing digital advancements can revolutionise diaspora engagement. Accessible and secure digital platforms can facilitate convenient remittance transfers, provide information about social protection programs, and enable collaboration between diaspora members and local organisations. By leveraging technology, the barriers of distance and time can be overcome, allowing for more efficient and impactful diaspora contributions to social protection.
The Cameroonian diaspora holds immense potential in bolstering social protection within their home country. Through financial remittances, philanthropic activities, and knowledge transfer, diaspora members make a substantial difference in improving the lives of their families and communities. However, to fully capitalise on their contributions, it is essential to foster collaboration, coordination, and dialogue between diaspora actors and government institutions. By leveraging the expertise, experiences, and resources of the diaspora, Cameroon can create a more coordinated, inclusive, and sustainable approach to social protection, ensuring the well-being and prosperity of its citizens. By addressing challenges related to coordination, recognizing diversity, and embracing digital innovation, the Cameroonian government can unlock greater opportunities for diaspora engagement and maximise their contributions to building robust social protection systems.
Dr Charles Simplice Mbatsogo Mebo is a junior researcher specialised in migration governance in sub-Saharan Africa. He is a laureate and graduate of the YALI (Young African Leadership Initiative) Programme and holds a double master's degree in Geopolitics and International Relations from the Academy of Diplomacy of Cameroon (IRIC) as well as a PhD in Human, Economic and Regional Geography at the University of Poitiers (France). Dr Mbatsogo has over 5 years of experience in corporate communication, project management, creative writing, data collection and analysis, leading to various scientific publications and international communications and positions.
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