How Jamaicans in the Diaspora Play An Important in Jamaica

SOUTH FLORIDA – Since late 2023, Andrew Murray has been returning home to Jamaica in the hope of starting a farm and eventually an agro-processing company. The 46-year-old has already rented a plot of land in the hills of Westmoreland to do his farming and has been eyeing the possibility of acquiring, as well as renting more property to fulfill his dream.

The Brooklyn, New York resident migrated to the United States of America in 2001 and has been visiting multiple times per year since 2017. For him, Jamaica is home and he wants to give back to the country of his birth by investing in agriculture.

Andrew Murray

“When people think of Jamaicans abroad, they generally think about remittances, but many of us contribute in various ways. We have businesses here (in Jamaica) that generate employment. Others invest in real estate or contribute in other ways,” Murray explained.

Murray is one of approximately 3 million globally, who make up the Jamaican Diaspora, according to data from the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI). These Jamaicans live mainly in the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom (UK) and the Cayman Islands.

In its 2017 study, CAPRI noted that the Diaspora’s total contribution through remittances, investment, philanthropy, exports, and tourism represented 28 per cent (US$4 billion) of Jamaica’s national output annually. They added that the unrealised potential of the diaspora represented at minimum 11 per cent (US$1.5 billion) of the total national output of the country, of which investment held the largest share.

Nathaniel Peat, Global Jamaica Diaspora Council Representative UK
Nathaniel Peat

Nathaniel Peat, Global Jamaica Diaspora Council Representative UK (South), says the Jamaican Diaspora plays a strategically important role in the country’s development and social outreach.

“Apart from remittances, which represent a significant portion of Jamaica’s gross domestic product (GDP), Jamaicans overseas contribute in various other areas, such as investments because the Diaspora is seen as a reservoir of social and financial capital, which can be optimised for national development, through real estate, banking, investments in the stock exchange, local businesses, land, gastronomy, agriculture and a range of other sectors and industries,” he explained.

“Also, Diaspora tourism accounts for approximately 11-15 per cent of overall visitors to Jamaica and continues to rise especially with music and culture events that pull large groups,” he added.

He added that Jamaicans abroad have contributed through philanthropy and provide their skills and expertise when called upon.

“Many Diaspora organisations contribute significantly to sectors such as healthcare, education, sports, and business investment. For example, Jamaica Basic School Foundation, The Association of Jamaica Nationals UK, Jamaicans Inspired, Jamin France, American Friends of Jamaica, JahJah Foundation, Angel Foundation, Canadian Jamaica Association and the Jamaican American Association of Central Florida, to name but a few, are always focused on providing valuable assistance,” he revealed.

“Also, Jamaicans living abroad possess a wealth of skills and expertise that can aid in the growth and development of the country through consultancy support, seminars, joint project work and knowledge skills exchange,” he added.

Economist, Keenan Falconer, of the UN Jamaican Economy panel, opines that in addition to their economic contribution, Jamaicans overseas also provide the country with export opportunities.

“The Diaspora provides Jamaica with a ready market for goods and services which provides us with valuable foreign exchange,” he points out. Also, with the majority of them living in the United States of America, their proximity to us bodes well for economic activity and cross- border engagement.”

“Apart from that, they contribute to economic development through savings and investments, starting businesses and philanthropic activities primarily in health and education. They also provide valuable tourism receipts when they return home to visit.” He added.

He affirmed that engaging The Diaspora would benefit Jamaica even more in the long term.

“The Diaspora is replete with various skillsets that we could benefit from in terms of enhanced knowledge transfer,” he affirmed. “This would be beneficial to us as we pursue our development agenda.”

More on the contributions of the Diaspora and opportunities to further leverage their participation in the economy and wider society will be discussed during the 10th staging of the Biennial Jamaica Conference slated for June 16 to 20 at the Montego Convention Centre in Rose Hall, St James.

Persons may register at https://diasporaconferenceja.eventbrite.com.