- Nepal must capitalise on the skills and resources of its professional diaspora
Jul 7, 2014-
Every year, on July 4, the Association of Nepalis in the Americas (ANA) organises a mass convention in the US to coincide with the American Independence Day. This year, the thousands of Nepalis from across the Americas who thronged to Tysons Corner in Virginia were greeted by a message from US President Barack Obama. “From contributing to the arts to expanding our understanding of the sciences, promoting business, and serving with courage and distinction in our Armed Forces,” declared President Obama in the message read out by the state Democrat treasurer, “Nepali Americans have enhanced all aspects of our society.” Clearly, the contributions of Nepalis to US society have been significant enough to warrant such a message.
The ethnic Nepali population in the US was close to 60,000 in 2010, according to the latest US census data. Since then, it can only have increased. The advent of democracy to Nepal in the 90s liberalised the passport regime, allowing ordinary Nepalis to travel like never before. This led to a steady outflow of students abroad, culminating in roughly 10,000 leaving the country every year for studies. The US has been a special destination for many Nepalis, attracted as they were by the US’ robust economy, its vaunted education institutions, its history of immigration and its democratic ethos. The inception of the Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) in the early 90s only helped with migration to the US, opening up at most 3,500 seats for Nepali applicants. Many others migrated legally later in life, seeking better opportunities. These Nepalis, educated and skilled, have gone on to make significant impacts on US society. It is them that Obama was commending in his message.
Despite the vast potential of the professional diaspora, Nepal has yet to capitalise on this significant group. While the contributions to Nepal of migrant labourers to the Gulf and East Asia in the form of remittances have been well documented, the country has yet to mobilise and engage with its skilled, professional-class diaspora in the West. In countries like India, South Korea, China and Zimbabwe, diaspora populations have been major investors in emerging industries, patrons to innovators and entrepreneurs and generous philanthropists. In Nepal, Shesh Ghale, who made his fortune in Australia, is working on building a five-star hotel in Kathmandu while Upendra Devkota, who made money in Russia, has brought in foreign investment and undertaken many charitable works, like the founding of the Pashupati old age home. Furthermore, diasporas, especially in western countries, are instrumental in lobbying foreign governments for important causes back in their countries of origin. This can range from channelling foreign aid to intervention and relief in humanitarian crises. In these efforts, it is not only important for the Nepal government to reach out but also for diaspora communities themselves to organise and work in a coordinated manner. The maintenance of active communication lines and the building of trust between the government and the diaspora are paramount.
Published: 08-07-2014 09:15