In a song that was recorded by the U.S.A. for Africa in 1985 and the proceeds of which were funneled to Africa for hunger relief, the African Diaspora in the United States raised the bar.
This cause to combat hunger in Africa brought together artists from different genres and backgrounds to record a track. These musicians were the biggest names of their time – Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, and Bob Dylan to name a few. Between Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie’s writing the song and the soulful group recordings, we saw playful moments of a breakout into Harry Belafonte’s ‘Day O’, signings of each other’s sheet music, and a tearful moment of gratitude.
While the outfit choices, filming, and heavy synthesizer in the track scream 1985 to a contemporary audience, the heart of this documentary remain pertinent. In a final monologue with Fonda, she references a quote from John Donne, “any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.”
The sentiment is highlighted in the song, and Jackson and Richie point out, “There’s a choice we’re making. We’re saving our own lives.” And so, as Fonda draws on this parallel, she reckons that in looking away from the crisis, “we are gradually killing our conscience. And that might be the most terrible death of all.”
‘’We are the World’’ is a pledge, a blank check against which the African leadership is yet to present any ambitious development initiatives. From investments in vocational education to the development of new (Diaspora) cities, nothing should be considered off-limit in the engagement campaign.
Africa’s large diaspora has mainly been seen as an asset to African countries only in terms of remittances. However, the African diaspora population is untapped by human and social capital, underutilized as a source of investment, support, and human capital, and a resource for advocacy and political pressure.
Anne Kamau and Mwangi S. Kimenyi offer ways for African policymakers to better engage diaspora members in the years ahead. African governments should take the time and effort to know what their diaspora looks like so that they can target it more effectively. African banks should look to diaspora members as potential clients. Also, by building effective and targeted lobbying and advocacy groups, African governments can empower their diaspora in their host countries to influence foreign policies that impact Africa.