How not to essentialize the Diaspora This issue addresses some of the critical gaps missing in our discussions on the Diaspora, writes HAB editor Demessie Fantaye


The Horn of Africa as a locus of migration flows has also generated its own Diasporas scattered around Europe, North America and the Middle East. The Somali, Ethiopian and Eritrean Diasporas are key economic and political actors. These Diasporas have created networks and institutions which have extensive political and economic impact on the countries they originated from. Diasporas from the Horn of Africa have lobbied the governments of the countries they find themselves in to exert pressure on the politics and governments of their countries of origin. The Somali, Ethiopian and Eritrean Diasporas have also channelled financial and other forms of support to political actors in their countries of origin. Diasporas have also often been tapped in a more tangible sense to contribute personnel for positions in the governments in their countries of origin.

It is clear however that there are critical gaps in the literature on Horn of Africa Diasporas. The literature often elides critical differentiation within Diaspora communities. It also essentializes the Diaspora and ignores the complexities and constantly evolving nature of Diaspora engagement and how it is socio-politically constructed.

The articles in this issue of the HAB point to interesting dilemmas and issues that policy makers at the national and international level concerned with the migration crisis and who wish to draw on Diaspora resources to mitigate socio-political and economic problems in the Horn, should pay attention to. The article by Nimo-ilhan Ali points to the dilemma posed by Diaspora success as a driver for further emigration and underlines the importance of paying attention to community attitudes and perceptions to reduce the flow of migration from the region. Markus’ piece is a reminder of the complexity and the interdependence of factors that contribute to successful peace-building efforts by the Diaspora. Markus’s article implicitly shows that the intersection of government policies and the international situation combine to create conducive conditions that enable Diaspora efforts in peace-building to have an impact. Cindy Horst’s article shows that governments in the region in their bid to attract Diaspora investment and political support should design their efforts so that domestic socio-political attitudes and actors are not threatened.

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