Transnational political engagement of African diaspora communities

Diasporas driving social and political change in country of residence and origin

  • How have diaspora communities self-organized between various countries of residence in order to influence local policies and drive social change?
  • Are there lessons that can be learned to develop better polices for managing multi-cultural cities both in Europe and in Africa?

This three-year research project explores how diaspora communities play a role in shaping policy and driving social change not just in and across their countries of residence, but also in their countries of origin.

Working with the local government and Ghanaian and Ethiopian diaspora organizations in the four biggest (Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht) and three smaller cities (Almere, Emmen and Tilburg) in the Netherlands, Dr Anthony Otieno Ong'ayo is interested in how individuals, organizations and communities interact with local decision-making – sometimes by being part of it and sometimes being outside of it.

He also explores the differences between large cities, where about half of the population is of non-white Dutch origin, and the smaller cities, where cultural diversity is much lower, in the effectiveness in shaping policy. The second phase of the research looks at the role these diaspora communities play in their countries of origin through, for example, remittances, exchange of knowledge, problem-solving and support to small and medium enterprises.  

Whilst the diaspora transnational networks are predominantly urban and have become more vibrant and diverse as a result of rapid communication developments, little is known about their political engagement in countries of residence and origin and the kind of influences they generate through these transnational practices.

On the basis of the research findings, an analysis will be made of the potential of diaspora associations to act as agents of civic-driven change at different levels.

Why is this research relevant?

Cities are increasingly diverse and needs of the populations are increasingly complex, yet we know relatively little about how to manage multi-cultural societies and how multi-cultural societies organize themselves. The research aims to provide city and national level governments with insights into the role of diaspora communities and policy recommendations.


The project collaborates with a wide range of state and civil society organizations both in the Netherlands: 

  • Diaspora organizations and communities
  • Ministries (Foreign Affairs, Social Affairs, Justice)
  • Large municipalities (Amsterdam, the Hague Rotterdam, and Utrecht) as well as smaller municipalities (Almere, Emmen and Tilburg)
  • Knowledge institutes and Think tanks
  • Dutch NGOs working in the field of migration
  • Political parties

and in Ghana and Ethiopia:

  • Ministries (Foreign Affairs, Justice/Interior)
  • Regional governments
  • Municipalities (Cities)
  • Knowledge institutes and Think tanks
  • Civil society organizations NGOs working in the field of migration
  • Local communities linked to Dutch based diasporas
  • Political parties
Fotograaf: Jan van der Ploeg

Vital Cities and Citizens

This project is part of Erasmus Initiative Vital Cities and Citizens (VCC). With this initiative the Erasmus University Rotterdam wants to help improve the quality of life in cities.

In vital cities, the population can achieve their life goals through education, useful work and participation in public life. The vital city is a platform for creativity and diversity, a safe meeting place for different social groups.

The research has three themes: 

  • migration and diversity
  • safety and resilience
  • culture and creativity
Vital Cities and Citizens

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