By Akanimo Sampson
Burundi is the latest country seeking to harness the potential of some half million nationals residing today in nearby countries, as well as many outside Africa.
For many migrant-sending countries in Africa, the Diaspora is a source of remittances, knowledge, skills and investment.
A pilot project by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) is designed to contribute to reducing youth unemployment by tapping into the skills of the Burundian Diaspora located mainly in the East African Community region, followed by the United States, Canada and Europe.
The two-year initiative is the first project funded by the AfDB in Burundi. The project’s innovative approach consists of temporarily linking Diaspora members to youth and the private sector in the country of origin.
Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation Minister, Ambassador Albert Shingiro, says “this project aims to integrate the skills of the diaspora into the general development of Burundi, emphasizing the transfer of knowledge and exchange of experience in all its forms.”
The project plans to bring together experts from the Burundian Diaspora, 450 youth, the private sector and the government for the development of skills in current and emerging economic sectors in Burundi that will be identified through a market study.
Burundi’s agricultural sector, which provides livelihoods for most of Burundi’s 12 million citizens, is increasingly impacted by urban sprawl due to population growth, leading to the rapid reduction of arable land. Farming no longer can employ the many job seekers entering local labour markets each year.
Diversifying employment opportunities – to include, for example, computer and office skills, marketing and hospitality – and introducing new technologies is therefore critical, not least in ensuring sustainable livelihood opportunities for young people.
The pilot will begin with a basic assessment of needs and some market research on emerging opportunities in two targeted provinces in Burundi as well as a mapping of the Burundian Diaspora in two countries. These will be selected based on findings from research conducted during the initial phase of the project.
“By combining a mentoring programme with the involvement of successful national and international entrepreneurs in Burundi and members of the diaspora population abroad, a global support network will be established for the beneficiaries”, said Mireille Mugisha, Migration Management Coordinator at IOM Burundi.
The youth involved in this initiative will benefit from the unique expertise of 12 diaspora trainers with advanced knowledge in business management and other specific professional fields, who will return to Burundi to participate in specialised courses.
Also planned is the selection of 20 additional members of the diaspora who will serve remotely as mentors through an online platform. Nearly 70 others will be key players in consultations with the government to strengthen Diaspora involvement in the implementation of Burundi’s National Development Plan (2018-2027).
Current projections are for at least 450 youth to begin training. Those who choose to start small- and medium-sized enterprises will be supported to do so. The remaining youth will seek placement in participating enterprises through apprenticeships.
AfDB representative, Abdoulaye Konaté, explains that the project comes as part of a broader initiative within the bank’s Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy (2016-25). Its aim is to spur inclusive economic growth, with the specific goal of creating 25 million direct and indirect jobs while also equipping 50 million youth with employable skills within 10 years (2016–2025).
Ali Abdi, the Chief of Mission of IOM Burundi, noted that tackling unemployment, particularly youth and women unemployment, is also part of IOM’s mandate.
“IOM has developed a regional strategy to support member states in addressing challenges related to youth well-being and unemployment to ensure that migration can benefit both countries of origin and destination of migrants”, Abdi says.