The Cambridge Dictionary defines “diaspora” as “a group of people who spread from one original country to other countries, or act of spreading in this way”. In 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) opened its offices in The Gambia. According to their statistics, “90,000 Gambians living abroad account for over 20 percent of the countries’ GDP, while rural to urban migration has led to increasing urbanization…Over 35,000 Gambians arrived in Europe by irregular means between 2014 and 2018, with many others in Africa along the Central Mediterranean Route opting for voluntary return.” IOM the Gambia has a wide scope of activities. It engages in the following sectors:
- Migrant Protection and Assistance (MPA).
- Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR).
- Labour Mobility and Human Development (LHD).
- Immigration and Border Management (IBM).
- Migration Health and Communication for Development (C4D).
The organization is currently implementing several projects in The Gambia and each one of them has key objectives to meet. They are notably:
In the Migration Assistance Sector:
- The EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration: The Gambia. According to the organization, the project aims to “…contribute to strengthening the governance of migration and the sustainable reintegration of returning migrants in The Gambia”. It is financed by the European Union Emergency Trust fund for Africa (EUTF).
- Supporting National Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking aims to combat the trafficking of people. This project is financially backed by the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (I/TIP).
- Strengthening Sustainable and Holistic Reintegration of Returnees in The Gambia is a joint initiative with the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) and the International Trade Centre. It seeks to “strengthen the foundations of peace by fostering positive economic and social interdependence between returning migrants and host community members, as well as facilitating sustainable reintegration that will contribute to enhanced social cohesion”. It is funded by the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (PBF).
- The Migrants and Messengers project is to combat the reality that dictates individuals not to believe in illegal migration campaigns. They tend to accept the information coming from trusted sources. It is funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Under the Immigration and Border Management, the Enhancing Capacities of The Gambia Local and Central Governments to Manage Borders and Contribute to Trade Facilitation, Community and Economic Development project aims to “enhance the capacities of the Gambian authorities in managing borders and strengthening border health systems and trade facilitation for economic development…”.
In the Labour and Facilitated Migration Sector:
- The Safety, Support and Solutions in the Central Mediterranean Route aims to “enhance the capacities of government officials, civil society organizations and non-government organizations for migrant protection and the development of livelihood and income generation alternatives…”. It is funded by the United Kingdom Department of International Development (DFID).
- The Bridging Together Youth, Diaspora and Local Authorities for an Integrated Approach to Promote Employment and Address Irregular Migration in The Gambia, Guinea Conakry and Guinea Bissau project aim is to “promote safe migration and create alternatives to the irregular migration of youth by fostering employment in communities of origin”. It is funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation.
The United Kingdom Pre-Departure Tuberculosis Detection Programme (UKTB) falls under Migration Health. It aims to screen all UK visa applicants in coordination with a local health clinic and the National Tuberculosis Program (NTP).
The IOM has assisted the Government of The Gambia to draft its first National Migration Policy. Furthermore, in 2012, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad saw its mandate expand. This enables the authorities to reach out to its more than 63 percent of skilled emigration rate registered in 2000 located in various countries. Mainly Spain, the United States, Nigeria, Senegal and the United Kingdom.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in 2010, incoming remittances for The Gambia were in the neighborhoods of $90.7 Million USD and outgoing remittances stood around $33.3 Million USD. According to the same source, “Incoming remittances in 2011 were more than twice the size of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows, $90.7 Million USD versus $35.9 Million USD…”
These alarming figures bring us to try and ascertain why the various Gambian associations worldwide, the local authorities and the organizations have not yet been successful in reversing the trends. Encouraging more Gambians to come home and contributing to the nation development process seems to be a mere utopia. Channeling the remittances in a formal financial network where monies are deposited in savings and current accounts could drive to more several key realities. Notably, safeguarded funds that earn interest and that constitute investment capital for the economy’s small and medium enterprise sector.
A Potential Strong Backbone for The Gambian Economy
The next move in that reference would be to encourage the microfinance industry in The Gambia to grow to its full potential and finance the populations’ innovative creativity. Where competitive salaries cannot be created for migrants to return, sustainable, high revenue streams could step in to reward the entrepreneurial minded citizens with the pool of knowledge that they have accumulated during their travels. The pieces of the puzzle are many to fiddle with, yet the final outcome could turn the “Smiling Coast” into the “Smiliest of Coasts” for many generations to come.