Malawi: Experience Engaging Diaspora Communities

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¶1. Post welcomes this opportunity to provide input on the Malawian
diaspora community. The initiative is particularly timely given
recent remarks by President Mutharika regarding his interest in
tapping the Malawian diaspora community as a resource for in-country
development activities. We will continue to investigate
opportunities to facilitate and encourage this GOM effort or to
engage in our activities in reaching out to the Malawian diaspora,
and we would welcome further guidance or assistance from the
Department in pursuing these efforts.

¶2. Below are Post’s responses to the information requested in
reftel, paragraph 15:

A) To what extent are diasporans from your host country an
identifiable community? Are there existing diapsora networks,
organizations or online communities available as platforms for
outreach?

Response: Malawians in the United States are mainly identifiable in
the Washington DC area; South Bend, Indiana; Texas; California;
Missouri; Atlanta, Georgia; Illinois and Oklahoma. There is the
Malawi Washington Association – www.malawiwashington.org – that
works in collaboration with the Malawi Embassy on a variety of
charity activities mostly centered around fundraising and awareness.
During the Malawi 2002 drought, the group was particularly active,
holding several fundraising activities. The majority of the
Malawian diasporans are academics, small businessmen, medical
professionals and laborers. In Malawi, the diaspora has low to
moderate visibility. There is an online community, Nyasanet. There
is also the Malawi US Exchange Alumni Association (MUSEAA), an
alumni association which also serves as a network.

B) What is the nature of the connection of the diaspora community to
the host country?

Response: There is a strong connection to host country, typically
organized around kinship networks. In practice this connection is
most active through financial support from remittances. In the
education sector, there are some educational ties.

C) To what extent has your host country or government activated its
diaspora communities for humanitarian relief? How would you
characterize the level of response? If outreach is relatively
recent, do you foresee opportunities to maintain diaspora community
involvement in country over the long term?

Response: During the 2002 drought/famine, there were some
activities initiated by the Malawi Embassy through the Malawi
Washington Group. There has been some outreach done by the
President Mutharika, but it has not yet been fully formalized and it
is focused on long term development, not relief.

D) To what extent is the diaspora community engaged in long-term
investment in country? What is your assessment of the future
potential for long-term and sustained engagement of the diaspora
community in such efforts?

Response: The diaspora community is somewhat engaged in this area.
The most notable activities include setting up small businesses, or
construction of personal or business property, including rental
houses. In terms of future potential, possible areas are
institutional capacity building, micro-enterprise and
entrepreneurship. There is also potential in fostering exchange and
providing some intrinsic or value-added incentives, either in
addition to or rather than just a financial return. For example, in
the area of education capacity building and transfer, one could
sponsor fellowships or endowed professor positions at the national
university for returned Malawians or one could set up scholarship
funds (e.g. for schools or universities) that individuals could
contribute to. Another idea to explore with potentially more
sustainability would be that of getting ‘group’ vs. individual
linkage efforts, e.g. some type of ‘sister city’ or “sister group”
approach – this could be links between schools, or churches, or
civic groups or any entities where you might have more than one
Malawian in the U.S. interested in this etc., so that you could have
ongoing communication and perhaps technical input – e.g. overseas
‘advisors’ on boards vs. just having money be sent.

E) To what extent is the diaspora community working toward
scientific, engineering, medical and educational institution
building? How might diasporans with backgrounds in these fields or
otherwise affiliated with the Academy or professional and technical
societies, become engaged in science diplomacy programs?

Response: The diaspora community is somewhat engaged in this area.
Host government support for coordinated linkages between diasporans

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and Malawi could lead to increased engagement. There are a lot of
doctors in the diaspora who can be encouraged to return or make a
contribution of some kind. There is a view that there is strong
potential here given the number of Malawian academics in the US.

F) To what extent is the diaspora community engaged in conflict
resolution and peace building? Do you see future potential to
transplant diaspora community participation in these processes into
other priorities governing the bilateral (and/or regional)
relationship?

Response: Malawi has no significant internal or external
conflicts. The diaspora community is not at all engaged in this
area. With Malawi’s economy and politics progressing as it now,
there is potential to get diasporans interested in the country’s
development.

G) To what extent is the diaspora community engaged in meeting the
health, education and welfare needs of indigenous peoples?

Response: The diaspora community engagement in this area is
limited. Anecdotal examples indicate that most do this at a
personal level, e.g. supporting health, education needs of their
family members. There is a view that University lecturers are key
amongst those in the diaspora who can help strengthen the local
university.

H) To what extent is the diaspora community engaged in democracy
promotion, electoral reform and civil society development? Are
there key milestones in your host country or host government’s
development that would create opportunities for such engagement in
the future?

Response: The diaspora community has limited engagement in this
area. There is some civil society activity in promoting democracy,
for example through the internet news service Nyasa Times.

I) How would you characterize the level of concern and attention
given to diaspora communities by your host government? If
applicable, please describe the host government’s organization and
strategy dedicated to relationship-building with its diaspora
communities (for example, host governments may have established
promotion offices to encourage diasporans’ return, bringing with the
know-how and financial resources).

Response: President Mutharika has on numerous occasions encouraged
Malawian diaspora to invest back home. However, the message has not
been very clear in terms of what incentives await potential
investors. There has been no real strategic plan developed. Some
recent efforts have been initiated to establish a database for
diasporans. Other than this, there are low levels of concern and
efforts given to promote diasporans return to Malawi in the
mainstream. The main concern is that most professionals are leaving
the country to live abroad. Bringing them back needs to take into
consideration the issues that made them leave.

J) If you have undertaken programs to reach out proactively to
diaspora community members, please share the circumstances that
prompted the outreach effort, how outreach was conducted or
programmed, personal impressions from the experience and benefits
from the outreach effort.

Response: Both President Mutharika and Post have recently expressed
interest in reaching out to Malawians overseas for the purposes of
channeling or rekindling their interest and contributions to
development in the country. USAID/Malawi has begun to investigate
potential ways to engage the Malawi diaspora, reaching out to other
USAID missions and to USAID/W. This yielded some information in
July 2009 on efforts in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, as
well as some information from the EGAT Office regarding Diaspora
outreach/engagement through Global Development Alliances (see
http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/global_partners hips/gda) and on ICT
(ICT-Diaspora Nexus: http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNADM028.pdf).
This also yielded recent press release “New Business Initiative
seeks Entrepreneurial Ideas from U.S. based African Migrants to Spur
Economic Opportunity in Homeland” released on July 9, 2009. This
was meant to help reach out and publicize the launch of a
USAID-Western Union African Diaspora Marketplace Competition to
Support Diaspora-Driven Development. Malawi was one of the
countries of interest. It closed on July 21, 2009. Up to USD1.5
million grant funding was available, to be spread among 10-20
grantees. Around this same time, a local newspaper reported that
President Mutharika had engaged local consultants to help put
together a database of diaspora. It was not possible to get an
update on whether there was progress on this action at the time of
the responses to this cable.

K) If you have received unsolicited requests from the diaspora

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community please share the nature of the requests, the
considerations you took into account in formulating respective
responses and the outcomes of interaction.

Response: The mission Education team received the visit of a woman
who has been building a private school in Mzuzu, with support from a
private US citizen in Arizona. She informed the team of having
visited both the Embassy and then us. She had been making the
rounds among donors and her visit was both a courtesy visit and PR
regarding these efforts. She did inquire about the potential for
support, but the main need was for construction. We currently do
not fund construction efforts of the scale that were outlined and
current efforts are focused on public and community education/school
efforts in the education sector.

L) To what extent have you designed or participated in public
diplomacy programs customized to diaspora community needs and
interests? Do you anticipate taking advantage of such opportunities
in the future?

Response: The US Embassy Public Affairs Section spearheads and
supports efforts of the Malawi US Exchange Alumni Association
(MUSEAA) for mostly exchange, networking and learning purposes. It
is a group made up of USG sponsored participants to various
academic/professional exchanges is actively engaged in development/
social awareness programs in the country.

M) In planning future programs and anticipating requests for
assistance from diaspora community actors, what types of knowledge
management tools and information materials would be most helpful to
action officers at post? If the Department [of State] were to
develop a reach-back program to academics in the field of diaspora
community engagement, what are your preferences for accessing such a
mechanism?

Response: While the idea of a database is an interesting one and a
key starting point to know who makes up the diaspora, how this
information is collected and shared needs to be carefully
considered. There should be a menu of types of activities that
diaspora are engaged in with resources of examples of similar
efforts easily accessible and linked to clear development or other
goals/intervention areas. Another suggestion is that when issuing
Solicitation for TA and consultancies, if the diaspora are a
registered entity/organization, they could possibly bid and be
provided with exemptions just like minority or small businesses.

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