Rethinking The Zimbabwean Diaspora: In The Light of Remittances

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Taku

There are several anti-diasporan egregious errors committed by folks back home when referring to fellow Zimbabweans seeking greener pastures in the diaspora. They are usually referred to as chickens or fugitives of the political plight that bedevilled the country since the new millennium. Somewhat those who remained in Zimbabwe think that they are more patriotic than those abroad. In fact what some of our comrades and cadres do not recognize is that, having them listed approximately 18 times in the National Budget is a clear emblem that they are a critical to the economy.

There is a common tendency of regarding emigrants as out of touch with home events therefore a culture of discrimination has been cultivated over the years. Firstly, not having “the right to vote” explains their pathetic standpoint in the Electoral Act and them having no voice in policy formulation and economic planning makes our assurance double sure that, the government is treating them as second class citizens. Quite recently, the phrase “people in the diaspora” used by most Zimbabweans on various social platforms has fast graduated into a derogatory expression itself in the Zimbabwean socio-political and economic landscape.

I am usually buried in disbelief when one is citing the achievements of the self-styled Government of National Unity that Mugabe has oft-times lambasted as an indecisive “three-headed creature”, and hastily points to the COPAC Constitutional Draft that the government managed to come up with in their 5 year tripartite marriage. Honestly, that document is a modification of the Lancaster Constitution and nothing very new is inside it, just same old laws. Even if two Stakeholder Conferences were held by the Constitution Parliamentary Committee, the absorption of the Zimbabwean diaspora is still a mystic factor. The concept this writer is trying to clarify here is that, this is not a partisan problem but a national one.

Back to our story, there is this captivating quote from Clemens (2009) ‘A software developer in India can roughly triple her real earnings by moving to the United States; a physician from Cote d’Ivoire can raise his real earnings by more than six times by working in France… Many professionals who are willing and able to move can achieve life changing increases in living standards.’ This outwits the fact that the reasons for migration are political. Instead people migrate seeking economic fortunes in the developed world.

It is evil and sinister for the nation to forget or take for granted the contribution of the diaspora to national development. These people make a lot of sense when counting the Gross National Product that is normally measured by totaling all personal spending, all government spending, and all investment spending by a nation’s industry both domestically and all over the world.

Zimbabwe as a multiple currency economy without a domestic monetary policy, is confronting its liquidity challenges through its expatriates that send remittances every now and then through formal channels of money transfer. These are the same people whom we long disremembered and took for cowards yet their contribution saved the country from becoming an isolated pariah and failed state in the period prior to the Government of National Unity. Have fellow Zimbabweans forgotten the very epoch when the Zimbabwean dollar became a curse on our back.

Through those remittances they send, they support projects, initiatives, Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs), education, healthcare and multifarious necessities needed by their relatives back home. They also avail foreign currency for circulation in our multiple currency economy.  According to Ratha (2003), the positive effects of remittances on investment in some receiving countries in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa have been observed where they have financed the building of schools, clinics and other infrastructure. This is a development reality which Zimbabwe is yet to focus upon in order to maximize benefits.

In addition, through the medium of institutions such as hometown associations, remittances have improved public savings to finance small community projects. Massey and Parrado (1998), who examined enterprise formation in a sample of 30 communities in central-west Mexico, concluded that remittances from the United States provided an important source of start-up capital in 21 percent of the new business formations. Woodruff and Zenteno (2001) also find that remittances are responsible for almost 20 percent of the capital invested in microenterprises throughout urban Mexico.

Between January and October 2014, Zimbabwe’s international money transfers amounted to $1.42 billion of which diaspora remittances were $685.5 million. Since it is now more than a decade sticking to the Look East Policy, is it not obligatory for us to emulate the Dragon? China invented a “brain trust” model designed to attract its human capital diaspora and open investment trade opportunities through its overseas Chinese communities. Similarly India also initiated a diaspora policy pursuing direct investment, portfolio investment, technology transfer, market opening and out-sourcing opportunities.

We urge policy makers, the Consul-General, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and other responsible stakeholders to re-engage these compatriots in issues that pertain to policy planning and national development. We are still waiting for true ideas of Socialism to materialize.

Takudzwanashe Mundenga is a resident political, social and business analyst. He is an undergraduate at Midlands State University, studying a Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies Honours Degree. He runs this column weekly. For feedback and comments please feel free to write him on [email protected]