Culture, Heritage and Diversity


Business partnerships with migrants’ countries of origin: sharing the diversity advantage


The debt crisis of the past few years and the unprecedented strain on public finances has led many European governments to be very defensive both on migration and development cooperation. Such an attitude is reinforced by a fundamental shift in economic power relations whereby the wealth gap between Western Europe and some “developing” countries is closing with emerging markets starting to challenge the competitive advantage of the “developed” economies.


At the same time European countries are witnessing a rapidly growing number of private businesses arising from within the diaspora communities and that are flourishing despite virtually no public support. Some of these businesses have sometimes turned into big and influential companies that have an increasing share of the national market. In most cases however, migrants are active within small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which, it should be recalled, form the real backbone of modern economies.


It is in such a context that policy-makers working at the national and international levels have become increasingly aware of the potential contribution of local authorities and diaspora communities to development.


An Intercultural cities seminar held in Geneva on 7-8 November 2013 looked at what cities can do to unlock the potential of migration for inclusive development, i.e. development in which migrants and their home countries are not considered as recipients of foreign aid but as providers of know-how and actors during the whole process that leads from prospective market research to profit-taking.


This paper by Oliver Freeman, presents the results of the seminar by providing guidelines and examples of good practice around the following questions:

What comparative advantages do cities have when it comes to developing business partnerships with migrants’ countries of origin?

What conditions have to be met by migrants and local authorities to ensure the effectiveness of such business partnerships?

How can local authorities work with business development agencies to adopt a more balanced and inclusive approach to economic development?

To what extent do local authorities in different countries need to cooperate to ensure the success of such business partnerships?

Do business partnerships with migrants’ countries of origin contribute to the migrants’ integration in European cities?

How can cities communicate and raise awareness among the members of the public on the positive impact of inclusive Migration & Development initiatives?