10 October 2012

AiD Activates the African Diaspora for Development

The most valuable resource for the development of Africa are African's themselves argues Africans in the Diaspora (AiD) founder Solome Lemma. This week, AiD launched its web platform that seeks to "[unleash] the financial, social and intellectual capital of Africans to advance social and economic change in Africa."

"AiD puts Africans at the forefront of African development, as funders, designers, and implementers,” said Lemma in her remarks at the time of the website's release. Lemma and Zanele Sibanda co-founded AiD after a conversation three years ago revealed a shared frustration with the lack of outreach to African organizations and the way in which humanitarian agencies and media portrayed the continent and its people.

"Across Africa, hundreds of thousands of indigenous social change organizations and ventures are working to solve the most pressing challenges in their communities. They are changing their communities through effective and transformative programs. Limited resources and access to technical support hinder their full potential," wrote Lemma in a blog post for WhyDev. She believes that leveraging the diaspora is a way to close the resource gap.

AiD closes the gap through three programs: Funds, Connections and Voices. The African diaspora already sends $40 billion remittances each year. The flow of funds back to the continent exists and there are effective ways for people to send and receive money. The Funds aspect of AiD piggybacks on the transfer of money by encouraging people to support social change organizations through community funding and philanthropy.

Direct giving is one option as well as the provision of grants. AiD wants to mobilize $100,000 in support for up to 10 social change organizations in its first year. By year 5, AiD hopes to reach 300 social change organizations through $10 million in giving.

In order to support the growth of the organizations that are financially supported, AiD wants to link people with experience to organizations on the ground. The Connect part of the platform gives members of the diaspora to put their talents to use by building a database of experts that will support the organizations that are financial recipients through AiD.

The final step is storytelling. By the 5th year, AiD wants to collect over 1,000 stories of diaspora members giving in order to, as Lemme writes, "amplifies the voices of Africans and their contributions to Africa's progress." Doing so will help to address the problem of media representation that Lemme and Sibanda lamented three years ago.

AiD is an intentional play on the word 'aid' often used in the context of development and humanitarian assistance. The aim is to reclaim and re-purpose the word to one that is about empowerment, rather than a relationship of giving and receiving.

Lemma explains, "To see transformational change in Africa, Africans must become leaders and drivers of that change. We can do so in partnership with allies, friends, and invested partners. We cannot remain the beneficiaries and dependents, when there are sufficient resources, skills, and ideas within Africa. AiD is our contribution and our way of disrupting, re-imagining, and reshaping the meaning of 'aid.'"