One of the most striking demographic figures in the Caribbean region is the one-to-one ratio of nationals living in their home countries and the members of the diaspora living abroad:
“There is nearly one person living abroad in the diaspora to every person still resident within the Caribbean, making the diaspora an untapped potential resource for economic development” – World Bank, 2013.
This figure can be perceived as an opportunity to unlock a potential growth in the economy and development of this region if managed adequately.
It has been demonstrated in various studies that the diaspora from this region is both highly educated and highly engaged, not only from a nationalistic approach but also regionally, and they wish to be even more connected.
More than 85% of the members of the Caribbean diaspora are active investors in their home countries, particularly in real estate. Most of the support from the diaspora goes to charity, remittance-investments to support relatives with small businesses, and other entrepreneurship investments. Additionally, it could bring added value to job creation and productivity increases through more investments, as well as through mentoring.
Even though there is a high percentage of people of this community expressing their interest in investing and get involved in some way, the findings in the study “Diaspora Investing: The Business and Investment Interests of the Caribbean abroad” shows that the gap between real engagement (13 %) and expressed interest (85%) remains significant.
A justification of that can be exemplified with the results of a statistical report made by IOM in 2017, that mapped the Diaspora in Jamaica, which identifies that despite the diaspora’s expressed interest in forming business relationships with Jamaica, concerns were also emphasized in terms of high corruption levels (16%); high crime and violence rates (13%); distrust of potential business partners in Jamaica (13%); the economy’s instability (11%); and the difficulty in doing business in Jamaica (10%).
Considering these facts, governments should be responsible for supporting and fostering these interests by:
- Creating new policies and strategies that provide incentives to these key members; reducing barriers and bureaucratic processes, and increase information transparency, so that they could play an even bigger role in contributing to the region’s development. The weak legal enforcement and regulations among countries is making it difficult to unravel the potential demand for investments among the diaspora.
- Data collection - Conducting diaspora mappings to understand what their interests are in order to develop investment opportunities tailored to their needs.
- Establishing dedicated units or agencies and invest in channels to promote the diaspora’s engagement in their home country’s development efforts. An example of this can be the development of an online mechanism that could facilitate networking between professionals overseas and in the region, where the diaspora could mentor and recommend good practices with like-minded individuals in the region.
- Creating formal platforms to facilitate communication between policymakers and members of the diaspora, that allows them to actively participate in decision-making, while also generating awareness of investment opportunities.
It is clear that the Caribbean diaspora can play a critical role in the development of the region; there is, therefore, an urgent need for new and creative thinking to find ways to lower barriers to engagement, and to create a holistic and structured regional agenda, formed through dialogue between key specialists, decision-makers, and diasporas from all countries of the region, to deliver strategies that will address issues affecting the region.