Professor Wallace Ford’s African Diaspora Proposal

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The transatlantic slave trade ripped 12 million men, women and children from their homes, stole their lives and their dreams, and created untold misery that persists to this day. One possible way to staunch the residual economic damage is for some of the best and the brightest of the African Diaspora to return home, says Professor Wallace Ford, chair of MEC’s Department of Public Administration. Ford recently presented that idea at a scholarly gathering in London.

Professor Ford, a Harvard Law School graduate, is a former investment banker and city and state business official, among other career stops. He presented “African Diaspora Development Programs – New Solutions to Enduring Challenges” at the Academy of Business & Retail Management’s joint International Trade and Research Conference and International Conference on Institutional Leadership, Learning & Teaching. The Academy’s 2018 conference in New York is co-sponsored by the MEC School of Business.

Ford’s recent conference paper and power point examined the possible impact of a proposed “Return to Africa” initiative, aimed at people with first and second generation roots in Africa and the Caribbean, as well as an “African Diaspora Development Bond” project to rebuild devastated economies by selling bonds. One of the biggest obstacles to such plans is local corruption, said Ford.

“Your people are your biggest asset,” Ford said a recent interview. “For example, 8 million people live in Ghana – four million Ghanaians are in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S.” Other African diaspora countries also export large numbers of citizens, he said, with education a big draw for going abroad.

“After getting a degree they stay in those countries,” said Professor Ford, who has also worked as an international corporate attorney. “Like most immigrants, they have the initiative, drive and are risk takers. Many are entrepreneurs who think creatively.” Their skills, professional networks and exposure to new ways of doing business make them invaluable at home, he said.

While many immigrants send money home, it is not a sustainable, structured way to build schools, housing, railroads and other elements of a flourishing economy, Ford said.

The return initiative has as its central feature the re-introduction of members of the worldwide Africa Diaspora (born in Africa or the children of African emigrants) as a key asset for sustainable change and reliable development in Africa. Other elements of the effort would be potential entrepreneurs; capital resources; the integration of African governments into the project, and strategic partnerships with major corporations and international organizations.

The bond project is modeled after capital development initiatives implemented by Israel and India over the past few decades. It is estimated that India has raised the equivalent of $32 billion in the recent years and Israel has raised the equivalent of $11.3 billion, according to Ford’s presentation. Similar efforts in Ghana and South Africa have not had the same success, but the size and scope of the African diaspora show great potential, he said. Africa, he noted, has a great opportunity to build a consumer market because the average age on the continent is a tender nineteen.