Participants at the 2012 Global Diaspora Forum listen to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah’s welcome address.
Participants at the 2012 Global Diaspora Forum listen to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah’s welcome address.
Photo Credit: Pat Adams and Vanessa Cheeves, USAID

"Today, more than 62 million Americans—a full fifth of this nation—are first or second generation diasporas. You represent a vast and diverse community—that has not only powered the development of our own nation, but holds the potential of transforming developing countries around the world."
USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, Global Diaspora Forum, May 19, 2011

Diaspora groups are recognized as important stakeholders and potentially powerful actors in international affairs and foreign assistance. These communities are using their influence and financial resources to contribute to the development of their countries of origin or ancestry.

Remittances – person-to-person money transfers – exceeded $500 billion worldwide in 2012. The influence that diaspora communities wield, however, goes far beyond financial transfers and has the potential to make a real difference in alleviating poverty and promoting economic and social development.

Why Diasporas Matter to Development

  • Diasporas are Growing. Over the last 45 years, the number of people living outside their country of origin has almost tripled—from 76 million to 215 million. The United States is home to the largest number of international migrants. More than 62 million people have parents or grandparents who were born outside the United States and many have close ties to countries with critical development needs.
  • Diasporas Give Back. Diasporas often have the connections, linguistic and cultural competence, knowledge and personal drive to serve as volunteers worldwide. There are 200,000 first- and second-generation immigrants among the 1 million U.S. residents who spend time volunteering abroad each year.
  • Diasporas are Innovators. Diasporan scientists, in particular, have long been among the most influential innovators and change makers in their countries of origin. Many aspiring scientists come to the United States for education and research. These diasporans have the ability to positively influence science, health, technology and other disciplines in their countries of origin.

USAID is playing a significant role in facilitating partnerships with diaspora communities to promote economic and social growth in numerous countries where we work. To unleash the potential of diaspora engagement, USAID in collaboration with the State Department’s Office of Global Partnerships and the Calvert Foundation manage the International diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA).

IdEA is a public-private partnership platform that harnesses the global connections of diaspora communities to promote sustainable development in their countries of origin or heritage. By supporting partnerships around trade and investment, volunteerism, philanthropy and innovation, the Alliance provides a platform for capacity-building and a forum for collaboration across sectors to scale efforts to improve lives in countries of origin.

Diasporan Partnerships in Action

  • African Diaspora Marketplace. USAID partnered with Western Union Corpation and the Western Union Foundation in 2009 to launch a business plan competition that encourages sustainable economic growth and employment by supporting U.S.-based African diaspora entrepreneurs with innovative and high-impact ideas for start-up and established businesses in Africa.
  • Diaspora for Development Initiative. USAID is partnering with Accenture LLP and Cuso International to encourage diaspora volunteerism by recruiting highly-skilled diaspora professionals and others with relevant connections to selected countries to undertake short- to medium-term assignments in support of local development projects.
  • VEGA Ethiopia AGOA+ Project. USAID worked with the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance in Ethiopia to support Development Credit Guarantee facilities, which provide access to finance for diaspora-initiated small- and medium-sized enterprises and women entrepreneurs.

For more information on how diaspora organizations can partner with USAID, check out our Diaspora Toolkit.

Please contact us for more information.

Last updated: November 21, 2013

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