Reaping What’s Been Sown: Exploring Diaspora-Driven Development for Sierra Leone

Mello, Robyn Joanne
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University of Delaware
In September 2007, the post-conflict West African nation of Sierra Leone reached a turning point in its history. It has been experiencing the positive inertia which results from the first successful transition of government power since 1961. Members of Sierra Leone's Diaspora—its population living abroad—have been contributing to the momentum as individuals and small groups, but they are divided along many lines. Through the quantitative analysis of 250 survey responses and qualitative analysis of 31 follow-up interviews with Sierra Leoneans resident in the United States, direct participation in Diaspora forum discussions, knowledge from personal experiences in Sierra Leone and Ghana, and a literature review of Sierra Leonean history and African migration and development scholarship, this research is proof that the population has many common goals despite perceived differences. A report will detail their collective profile and make policy recommendations to maximize their potential for large-scale development throughout Sierra Leone that will decrease the country's dependency on outside assistance. Transnational migration, in which there is not one departure and one arrival but rather a more continual movement between locations, is becoming ever more popular in this age of globalization. Instead of creating a trend in which Sierra Leoneans only move back upon retirement in the United States, this research proposes a change in development work which will facilitate highly skilled, professional migrants of any age in a country's Diaspora to lead transnational lives, developing capacities in their places of birth alongside expatriate workers from international organizations and local communities. Sierra Leone should be a model country and a test case for these projects. To achieve the utmost success in Diaspora-driven development projects, migration scholars must put more emphasis on studying single populations rather than overarching theories and presuppositions which lump all migrants into categories which leave them seeming less than human or invisible.