It is estimated that Guyana lost more than US$1 trillion invested in graduates of the country’s national university who moved abroad, according to figures provided by Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana (UG) Professor Paloma Mohamed-Martin.
The University’s second diaspora conference got underway on Monday and at that event, many underscored the importance of engaging Guyana’s vast diaspora.
The Vice Chancellor said diasporic engagements are crucial, especially now that Guyana is undergoing a period of “hyper-development” where repatriation and higher rates of non-Guyanese immigration are being seen.
But the focus on leveraging the diaspora must also encompass an appreciation of other dynamics, she said.
“Given the State-subsidised nature of the university… it is estimated, both in terms of direct terms and opportunity costs… we might have lost over US$1 trillion through the emigration of graduates to other countries mostly to North America and the Caribbean over the last five decades,” the Vice Chancellor said.
She added that many of those graduates who migrated eventually contributed to the development of other countries in very substantial ways. So Professor Mohamed- Martin contended that academic studies and “urgent” attention on the dynamics of Guyana’s diaspora are needed now.
This second university diaspora conference promises to aid those efforts.
Beyond the university’s efforts though, Head of the Diaspora Unit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Rosalinda Rasul, posited that diaspora engagement is a national priority.
It has been made a priority because it is believed that the capital, skills and support of Guyana’s diaspora can help local development efforts.
Already, Rasul told those gathered at the conference’s opening ceremony that a diaspora skill set database has been developed and this is providing information to the government on what skills are available to the country and in what country they are found in.
“… Within the next few weeks, a multi-stakeholder forum will be hosted to engage how the skills of the diaspora can be absorbed into the various sectors,” Rasul added.
Guyana’s diaspora is viewed as the world’s largest, on a per capita basis.
An analysis of the Guyanese diaspora, done by the Washington based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and reported on in 2020, found that Guyana’s emigration rate is one of the highest in the world, numbering about 30,000 annually. This is particularly notable since the country’s population has never officially reached one million.
The Foreign Affair Ministry official, however, highlighted that there are thousands of applications for re-migration and passports for overseas-based Guyanese seeking to come home.
With many coming back to Guyana, the Foreign Affairs Ministry is pushing efforts to digitise diaspora services.