Beyond Remittances: Engaging the Albanian Diaspora in Development

By Sarah Zehner

Since 2001, a growing number of developing countries have established ministries, government departments or other official institutions dedicated to their diasporas. Albania, which has a Diaspora Unit within its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is among this group. This shift worldwide is consistent with the recognition that diasporas can contribute greatly to both economic and social development in their countries of origin. In a recent article, Ricardo Hausmann refers to opportunities for diaspora engagement as ‘The Diaspora Goldmine’. But what makes a country’s citizens living abroad so valuable? And how does the Albanian diaspora play a role in Albania’s development.

Perhaps the most tangible way that diasporas contribute to the development of their home countries is via remittances. According to the Bank of Albania, remittances flowing into Albania increased by 8.6% from 2013 to 2014, reaching the amount of EUR 592 million. This is the equivalent of 5.6% of Albania’s GDP. These remittances supplement the incomes of households, serve as a critical source of foreign exchange, and help to promote macroeconomic stability. 

However, remittances are only one small part of ‘The Diaspora Goldmine’. In its publication, Developing a Road Map for Engaging Diasporas in Development, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) lists six ways in which diasporas can play an influential role in their home country’s development: remittances, direct investments, human capital transfers, philanthropic contributions, capital market investments, and tourism. To help better understand and facilitate these types of diaspora engagement, the Economic Growth in Albania Project at CID launched its Albanian Diaspora Program earlier this year.

With over one-third of Albanians living outside of their home country, migration plays a critical role in economic and social change in Albania. Most Albanian emigrants live and work in neighboring Greece and Italy, while the United States is the third most popular destination. Earlier this year, CID did a statistical profiling of Albanian-Americans and found that this group is highly skilled and educated, with most of the population concentrated in just a few states. In March, the Diaspora Program conducted online surveying that confirmed that Albanian-Americans’ high levels of human and economic capital could be better leveraged to spur inclusive growth within Albania. The survey found that the diaspora is willing, able and committed to engage in the development of Albania through education, professional exchange, humanitarian aid, business development, trade, and investment.

The Diaspora Program is now working to bring stakeholders together in order to move toward this vision. You can follow along here and learn more about what the Diaspora Program is doing this summer through the Global Albanians Newsletter

See also: Albania