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EMASWATI IN DIASPORA CONTRIBUTE E1.7BN

By PHEPHILE MOTAU | 2021-02-12

EMASWATI received a total of E1.78 billion in personal remittances in only a year. This was revealed by the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator, Nathalie Ndongo-Seh, at the virtual launch of the Diaspora Engagement Project yesterday. The project, which was launched by government in partnership with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), aims to involve Emaswati in the diaspora in critical nation building decisions. She said these personal remittances were for the year 2019. Ndongo-Seh said this invaluable economic contribution by the Diaspora to the nation could not be underestimated. “Around the world, an estimated 244 million people live outside their countries of birth. Commonly referred to as ‘Diasporas,’ these persons play a significant role in the development of their countries of birth,” Ndongo-Seh said. She added that in 2015, Diasporas contributed an approximate E8.3 trillion (US$ 552 billion) to international financial remittance, of which E5.3 trillion (US$ 421 billion) went to low-income and middle-income countries. She said such remittances were often invested in property, business activities and infrastructure projects, in addition to supporting relatives back home. “However, it is my understanding that the government may not have accurate information on the number of Emaswati living abroad. This project will help to fill in that gap by conducting a comprehensive Diaspora mapping exercise that will also identify areas of interest for the diaspora and guide the development of future strategies to increase their participation in the social and economic development of the kingdom,” she said. The UN Resident Coordinator said as a member of the UN, she had been gifted the wonderful opportunity to spend the past 21 years in 10 different countries, in addition to similar experiences for more than 20 years prior to serving the United Nations. “Yet, Cameroon, the country in which I was born and in which part of my family lives, will always be my home and possibly where I truly belong. The same rings true for the many people who were born in the beautiful Kingdom of Eswatini, for their hearts will always remain firmly rooted in this welcoming, friendly and magnificent nation,” she said. Ndongo-Seh added that it was time to take pride in the Diaspora made of Emaswati who are not only changing or improving the lives of many others who reside in this nation but continued to fly the Eswatini flag high in different countries. She said this was the first time that a Diaspora Engagement is being initiated in Eswatini and as the UN, they were delighted to partner with the Government of Eswatini to implement this initiative that will contribute to the social and economic development of this nation. Ndongo-Seh said there was no doubt that engagement with and investment in the economic, human, social and cultural capitals of the Diaspora would contribute to the diversification of Eswatini’s economy, beyond its agriculture-dominated economy. “Such investment will not only encourage the return of Emaswati with diverse skillsets and experiences, but will also contribute immensely to Eswatini economic growth, knowledge and well-being of Emaswati. However, for this potential to be harnessed, the Government needs to better understand the true potential that the diaspora may contribute to the development of this nation and enact policies that provide incentives and schemes that attract diaspora investments in Eswatini,” Ndongo Seh said. She added that history had also shown that diasporas often provided assistance to their homelands in times of natural disasters and political instability. She said as the world continued to endure the COVID-19 pandemic, which had brought immense disruption and suffering to the world and the nation, they were presented with a unique opportunity to cultivate a warm relationship with the Emaswati diaspora and indeed, harvest the sweet fruits that this relationship bears. “However, it goes without saying that the first and most formidable step to ensuring an effective relationship with the Emaswati Diaspora is, indeed, engaging with them and identifying significant gaps in this mutual relationship.” She further commended the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Thuli Dladla for her visionary leadership in organising the first Diaspora engagement initiative, setting up a Diaspora unit within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, recognising the invaluable potential of the Emaswati Diaspora and the need for constant and innovative outreach with the community. Ndongo-Seh said the UN continued to stand by His Majesty’s Government of Eswatini in its endeavours to attain national development priorities and the achievement of the SDGs by 2030. “Through the UNSDCF 2021-2025 signed by the late Prime Minister with his entire Cabinet in October last year, the UN has committed to contribute to “a prosperous, just and resilient Eswatini”, where no one is left behind.” She said they looked forward to achieving this goal by 2025 with all Emaswati, in the country and from the Diasporas, because in these times of hardship and major challenges in the kingdom and around the world that may last another couple of years – the kingdom needed all its sons and daughters, as well as friends by its sides to contribute to the social and economic development of the country.

...........Govt welcomes initiative – acting Prime Minister

The government looks forward to supporting the engagement of the Diaspora and to learn best practices from their experience in other countries in order to create private-public partnership." This was said by Acting PM Themba Masuku who was represented by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Pholile Shakantu during the virtual launch. "This partnership will, however, require critical fundamentals such as the reinforcement of trust, transparency, patriotism and professionalism at the very outset of the exercise," Masuku said. He said through government’s continued efforts to implement electronic platforms in all its agencies for improved service delivery, and the activation of communication offices in all ministries, it was his hope that they would build the bridges necessary for this project and others. Eswatini Ambassador to the USA Njabuliso Gwebu reportedly said the launch was applauded and had long been awaited. She is reported to have said as ambassadors of the kingdom, they were very eager to work with the Diaspora and had already been working with those who were availing themselves to our various embassies.

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