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Zimbabwe: How Can the Diaspora Contribute to Development?

Norbert Mugwagwa's picture


Around Christmas time and at the beginning of every academic year, I have routinely sent cash to my extended family back home in Zimbabwe. That’s been the pattern since I joined the World Bank mid-career and settled in Washington D.C. 23 years ago.
 
I am not alone; the number of Zimbabweans that have left the country is estimated at more than 3 million. Most have left since 2000, for reasons varying from the socio-economic to political.

Diaspora statistics from Zimbabwe make for sobering reading: 50% of all professionals have emigrated since 2000, which places the country in 10th position out of 157 countries that experience migration at this level of ‘brain drain’. This picture seems to suggest the country’s huge investment in education has been lost, yet when Zimbabwe suffered its worst economic meltdown in 2008-2009, the diaspora remitted over $1.6 billion, which accounted for more than 10% of its gross domestic product. In that time period, it was the biggest source of capital inflow and out -performed both exports earnings and development assistance.    
 
Worldwide, members of  the  diaspora may or may not want to return to their country of origin, but most want to make a difference to their country by contributing money in the form of remittances, skills and knowledge – often called ‘social remittances’; establishing networks and connections; and investing in business ventures or technology transfer.
 
Aside from economic impact, countries that have benefitted most from their diaspora have governments that have engaged this group and implemented policies to recognize the role of the diaspora, and give them incentives to invest and reduce costs of doing business.
 
For those of us from Zimbabwe, relations with our home government have been strained.  Members of the diaspora were denied the right to vote in the most recent elections and therefore feel alienated from centers of power. Political differences and tensions among the diaspora, and between the diaspora and the government, have impeded discussion of collaborating to improve the country’s economy.
 
In 2012, as part of its support to Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity, the World Bank weighed in to help my diaspora community engage with the government. I was tasked with organizing my fellow expats to establish the Zimbabwe Diaspora Home Interface Program (ZIDHIP) and its affiliate in the United States, the Zimbabwe Diaspora Network North America (ZDNNA). Over the last ten months, we’ve designed a plan based on five priorities to contribute to the country’s development, as follows:
  
1) Develop an IT-based skills locator to facilitate self-reporting by diaspora-based professionals and build a database of expertise within the diaspora, which both the public and private sector can tap into;
 
2) Establish a think tank to share knowledge on various subjects and topics that would be available as input for socio-economic strategic planning purposes, for the public sector as well as for business decision-making. Activities would include videoconferencing, information exchange during seminars and workshops, and research papers;
 
3) Define investment pathways by finding partners that are ‘a good fit’, a process that is challenging because investment choices are more individualistic and a result of intensive exchanges often of a confidential nature that requires certain levels of trust.  The diaspora would be networked to form resource pools to take up opportunities in both the public and private sectors;
 
4) Support philanthropic causes through shipping and distribution of donations of equipment and supplies for health facilities, books for schools, and clothes and other consumables for orphans; and
 
5) Develop programs to build public and private sector capacity through virtual training and sabbaticals, among other activities.
 
In August 2013, I coordinated a two-day ZIDHIP Diaspora Summit in Zimbabwe to formalize collaboration among members worldwide, including those from the United States, U.K., and East and South Africa. Since the Summit, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Finance, Patrick Chinamasa, has acknowledged the role the diaspora can play in the country’s economy and encouraged our participation in helping to build sectors such as power and agriculture, and in the resuscitation of faltering industrial companies.
 
The Zimbabwean diaspora is ready to contribute to its country’s development by pooling resources and investing in new ventures in mining, agriculture and financial sectors. I am very glad to contribute to these efforts.     

Comments

Submitted by Eusoph on

As a Zimbabwean, I fully support this initiative, weldone for kick starting a noble and sencere cause and count me for support on this journey.

Submitted by Brian Mazvidza on

This is a good cause and a safe net of some sort for those looking to invest. When investing especially from diaspora one needs trustworthy partners, therefore through this organization investors will find partners that are trustworthy. I am more than willing to participate and contribute towards these efforts to develop our country.

Submitted by Golden Makusha on

Zimbabweans in the diaspora yearn to contribute to the development of our country, just like other Diasporans from other countries including India , Israel, Ghana, China and Mexico, to name but a few. The zeal for the Zimbabwean diaspora is evidenced by the plethora of "Zimbabwe Diaspora" organizations that are in existence today.

To have a grater impact, it is time that the many "organizations" come together in a united front and work towards harmonizing energies and initiatives with a view of constructively engaging the home front. Many Zimbabweans have gained world class skills and experience in areas of technology, industry, manufacturing, management, public service, healthcare, education, infrastructure development and maintenance, business, finance and many more areas, as evidenced by their gainful employment in countries in which they live. These are the same skills required to pull Zimbabwe up by its "bootstraps".

The formation of ZIDHIP and It's nodes including ZDNNA , is a welcome initiative and we have faith that the next chapter in the Zimbabwean history is being written. Well done in starting the ball rolling!

Submitted by Portia Kumalo on

I would like to echo Noberts comments. I attended the conference in Zimbabwe from the UK. Many of us in the diaspora are supporting our families and sponsor orphaned children. This week in the UK press there was a plea from the Zimbabwe government for help with the education system there has been muted silence from the British establishment. Its criminal that the international community could sit back and not help the future generations of this country given that they are the leaders of the future. I believe that ZIDHIP will provide a platform for grassroot engagement in the development of our country. We cant do it alone we need the institutions like the world bank and IMF to help

Great comment, we need to get ourselves organized so that we can be a point of entry for discussion with different institutions that are willing to work with progressive Zimbabweans to make life better for our fellow citizens and help bring back the days of glory for our country. You can participate by joining or forming a chapter where you are. See www.zdnna.org and learn from ZDNNA how they have managed to formalize themselves – challenges and lessons learned to date.

Thank you Portia. By highlighting the role that the Bretton Woods Institutions can play, and indeed play, you encourage and urge Zimbabweans who work there to continue to root for support for the ordinary Zimbabweans. Keep up the positive spirit; you can contact us on: executive@zdnna.org

Submitted by Ian on

Hi, I worked in Pari until
I left in 2000, from 1984; I go back and teach, yet why on earth would I think of setting up a cardiology practice - which is a business by definition - when at the whim of government I can be forced to hand over control to an indigenous person? I worked purely in public health for 17 years yet am treated as second class - because I am white. I would live to bring skills back but cannot trust the government.

Ian, we give it up to you for giving back and would like to work with you and many other institutions in the diaspora that have developed collaborative relations with institutions in Zimbabwe. It is our hope that we can pool together individual lessons learned, scale them up and through the ZIDHIP platform, engage the respective State and Non-State actors on the Home-front. Building Trust was observed as the number one priority in diaspora, Home-front and State relations. Participants at the Harare Diaspora Summit (August 2013) observed that ‘lack of trust is not just between the diaspora and the Home-front but even among the Home-front actors’.  ZDNNA’s efforts to develop a skills locator and register is meant to complement and support individual efforts to bring expertise back or alternatively make it accessible wherever it is through virtual technology where feasible. Please contact us for more exchanges. executive@zdnna.org

Submitted by Sammie Tofara on

The document and the network are profound in strategy, lucid and carry the personal touch that can draw many to action.

will look forward to see the network grow and impact our country for the good

Submitted by Sammie Tofara on

The document and the network are profound in strategy, lucid and carry the personal touch that can draw many to action.

will look forward to see the network grow and impact our country for the good

Submitted by Godfrey Chakanya on

With the global employment challenges. This initiative as enanciated in the five priorities that you alluded to Norbert I see the benefiaciary being Zimbabwe. It is my fervent hope that the dreams and aspirations of Diasporians will see the light of the day sooner rather than later as the Diasporians give back the gains they acquired out of Zimbabwe without the 'poisonous' label of bringing 'foreign' ideals in our beloved motherland. I am confident the Diaspora contribution to the country's development will be a game changer to Zimbabwe and will bridge the gap between lost time of Zimbabwe's country development and desired development benchmarks .

Godfrey you make a very goods points. Receptivity to new ideas on the part of the Home-front coupled with willingness to temper acquired knowledge with the prevailing conditions on the ground should be the rules of the game. 

Submitted by Edith Kalanzi on

Great initiatives to be emulated by Pan-Africanists... well done NM!

Submitted by Brill Mnqobi Nkomo on

Nice write-up Norbert. I am just wondering how that $1.6 billion figure was arrived at and secondly I am do appreciate the amount of remittances still being sent to relatives and friends Zimbabwe but things have changed especially from folks in South Africa. They are no longer remitting like they did back in the 2008/9. I am not sure what impact that may have at a macro scale.

Diaspora official statistics are derived from Research Papers by the UNDP (Comprehensive Economic Recovery in Zimbabwe, 2012 Working Paper Series, page 21) and other sources which are estimations which are considered understated because of the huge amount of transfers that take place informally. It maybe the case that as the financial crisis hit the host countries, diaspora remittances may have dipped but it could also be argued that in order to maintain their families and siblings, diaspora dug deeper into what they may have considered savings to meet ‘fixed’ costs such as rents, school fees, health charges, etc. More structured research in conjunction with international institutions such as the IOM, ILO, World Bank’s Migration Unit as well as governments of host countries, is needed to clean-up the numbers. 

Submitted by Taf Mugwagwa on

It is good to see the creation of such a platform that allows the Zimbabwean Diaspora to come together and contribute towards the development of Zimbabwe beyond monetary contributions. I find the priorities interesting as they cater for a broad section of the Diaspora which is very inclusive in nature and allows people with diverse experiences to participate.
It’s unfortunate that no Zimbabwean based in Australia or Asia was able to attend the Summit in Zimbabwe last year. However, we hope to have regional representation at the next Summit, once we are mobilized and organized.

We are encouraging Zimbabweans from other Regions to form similar chapters as the ZDNNA especially in Australia, South Africa, UK (Europe) and West & East Africa. Invitations to the 2014 Summit will be sent to the potential Nodes, so please feel free to contact the two Coordinators of ZIDHIP: Dr. Ibbo Mandaza on: ibbo@sapes.org.zw and Dr. N.O. Mugwagwa on: nomugwagwa@gmail 

Submitted by David Makacha on

This is great. We have set our own Zimbabwe-Michigan State Partnership and the ball is already rolling

Submitted by Rudo on

How do i as individual be part of this and be directly involved involved in this though i am in cape town?

I would really love to support this. lets build our country back to shape.

Submitted by edmore on

I would like to praise the writer on formation of the group of people in the diaspora.Can he tell us what he is doing as a Zimbabwean working for the WB on ZIDERA and the monies being confiscated by by OFAC.

Government and Institutional policy related issues are beyond a single individual’s direct influence. Unfortunately ZIDERA is a law that was passed by the USA Congress which is the only institution that can address it. Through soft lobbying at discussion platforms such as NED Conference on Zimbabwe 2013 and World Bank discussion fora (BBLs) on Zimbabwe, I have asked questions and sought clarification of what actions are being taken. Please provide specific individual examples of the experience with these laws sand of OFAC seizers. At various fora that I have attended including during the last National Endowment for Democracy (NED) meeting held in Washington 2013, representatives of the State department were asked on Congress’s position. This is a form of  ‘Soft lobbying’ that we enunciated in the Draft Engagement Policy draft paper (Authors: Makumbe and Pimhidzai, 2013) and shared widely. 

Submitted by Jeremiah Nyachuru on

This is a good start so that instead of just sending money for food and old cars that contribute to pollution, there is coordinated approaches to real developmental projects and issues that can change lives and the landscape of zim. Zim is facing serious challenges and this additional voice will help transform the way we relate to each other as equal citizens and have a global approach which recognises that we are now in a global village and relationships are important and engagement of all stakeholders is crucial for social and economic progress. Continue to build this platform , in its due time, its relevance will have fruits. All the best

Indeed we live in a Global Village, collaboration and coordination of development efforts are the new imperatives. Trust building is s a long term proposition, but now is as good a time to start as any. We look forward to your participation, please visit: www.zdnna and contact us on: executive@zdnna.org

Submitted by Al on

This is very interesting and a great effort has been made. Unfortunately, the chasm between hope and reality may well be too wide now for any real effort of the diaspora to be felt in Zimbabwe. Such an initiative requires 1. A collective consciousness of all participants 2. A supportive Government. Although there are many more factors to consider these two are not applicable in the Zim environment.
The majority of Zimbabweans given the chance at a life outside the country would take it. So collective initiative is out....The Government has shown no real willingness to support Diaspora investment other than talking about it at numerous seminar/gatherings/etc. In short - They do and have done nothing to give an investor confidence which in this case are their own people.So point 2 is out.
The latest salaries scandal where no legal action or retribution was enforced is a clear sign of what would happen to our monies if we were to invest in Zim.

Indeed Al, your observations are on the mark, but many of us feel we should do something to narrow that ’chasm’ between hope and reality, for to do nothing would be too ghastly to contemplate. After all, we already do so much individually and collectively anyway through the remittances - formal and informal. There is certainly a paucity of evidence of action on malfeasance in public enterprises, at least it has been exposed and pronouncements have been made about addressing it, which could be a step in the right direction. It behoves all of us to pressure authorities to act on disclosures of theft, fraud and corruption of any kind. We shared the Diaspora Engagement Policy document with government which makes suggestions on how the diaspora and government can work together to boost investor confidence.  We cannot afford to give up without trying to do something. ZDNNA and ZIDHIP seek to do exactly that.  You can reach us on: executive@zdnna.org.  

Submitted by Sam Chimbuya on

Norbert. I am with you all the way. I applaud your every effort in encouraging the diaspora community to do something.

There is a fundamental governance flaw that is eating Zimbabwe to the core. This is the confusion in people's minds about what is government , the state and the party. Lines of accountability between government and the party are now blared. Party Cadres are deployed to positions within the civil service. They are no longer accountable to their professional ethics but to the party. I cannot imagine a policemen or an army person addressing a party rally and handing out party regalia. For development to happen this needs to be addressed.

Then you get the Serengeti phenomenon where members of the diaspora community come with business ideas and they fall prey to the "crocodiles".

I want to be part of the think tank and seek ways of re-visiting the development pathway for Zimbabwe.

VAChimbuya, welcome aboard! You have characterized the ‘status quo’ well. It always takes two to ‘to tango’. Development has to happen, so we have a duty to apply all our skills to get everybody to play their part. Yes, I believe we can turn around the country’s development trajectory by applying our pooling and complementing our skills, so please get in touch on: executive @zdnna.org.    

Submitted by Hon Walter Mzembi on

I will shortly be tabling a Diaspora Tourism Strategy in Cabinet. For me thats the beginning: Visit: Trade: Invest, in that order. I have submitted to the Civil Service Commission a case for a Brand Zimbabwe& Business Development Dept, and one of the deputy directors will look after Diaspora Traffic. How can the World Bank assist in capacity building? CSC will look positively at my proposal if I can demonstrate ICP support

Submitted by Prof on

Hon Mzembi, your effort should be commended, but I think your efforts and those of government are better served looking first to engage local resources, diaspora interest, and private sector ingenuity before you can really look to engage organizations like the WB. Indeed the WB and other similar organizations are an important source of technical assistance for government capacity building, however, success for your vision and that of the country rests on engaging private investment and creating the conditions that allow it to thrive. You don't need donor programs to speak with business and your own people to learn what they want you, as government to do, so that they can invest and take the country forward. It seems 3rd world countries suffer from a post-communist and post-colonialism mind frame that says everything to be accomplished is done through a centrally managed program. Big problems, especially those of commerce are best resolved by entrepreneurs and a well situated regulator.

Dialogue + sensible reform + rule of law = investment and prosperity

Submitted by Esau Mavindidze on

Minister Mzembi - I find your initiatives noble and timely. I have a few questions for your clarification on how you have engaged the Diaspora as you push for this initiative. The government, through the Finance Ministry, has already recognized the Zimbabwe Diaspora Home Interface Project (ZDHIP) as the formal linkage to the Diaspora. Have you engaged ZDHIP formally to seek Diaspora input into your strategy proposal? The policy document that ZDHIP tabled before government last year shows knowledge exchange and creation of think tanks as one of the key approaches for Diaspora engagement with government. If we are to strengthen this new bridge under construction, is it not the case that Diaspora input be sought first in the process of creating such strategic policy proposals than be sought after the effect? That we have Zimbabweans in positions of influence in some of these international institution should be a good thing to be put to advantage. But even better is the government recognition that these voices (input) should be channeled into Zimbabwe through one centralized platform for engagement. I would respectfully appreciate your response to some of these questions.

Submitted by Wilson Magaya on

This is a great initiative on the part of the minister however I think you may need to consider the following unless I stand corrected:
1)Both ZIDIP - a Government of Zimbabwe driven platform, and ZDNNA an affiliate for North America aspire to; both on the home front and diaspora, create platforms for consultation and dialogue of ideas for the benefit of the country.
2)To this end have you consulted the ZIDIP or the Zimbabwe diaspora on the Diaspora tourism strategy, you intend to table to cabinet?
3)On the issue of brand Zimbabwe, have you consulted the diaspora, whom you correctly want to target to better serve on what issues are damaging Zimbabwe's image amongst Zimbabweans let alone foreigners?
4)You seem to be assuming that there is lack of capacity among Zimbabweans to achieve whatever strategy you put in place, an assumption I think changes color if you look at the diaspora as part of the pool of people you have access to craft and implement the strategy
5)I support your attempts at re-branding, however I think having a whole department to do that is wasteful, why not engage Zimbabwean organizations such as ZDNNA and fund these to build the Zimbabwe image through Zimbabweans everywhere thus whilst building trust amongst Zimbabweans, you make the Zimbabwean the ambassador and image the Zimbabwe you want the foreigners to see-who better than the diaspora to build the image of Zimbabwe one person at a time
6)I would suggest that before you think of the big picture show that you are serious by appointing or at least lobbying for Diaspora to sit on those boards directly under or within the purview of your ministry. This I am sure would send the message that you are serious and would like to reach out to Zimbabweans no matter where they are, to name a few ZTA, AirZim, Parks and Wildlife Authority, can benefit from having some people in diaspora sitting on them.

 Hon. Mzembi, great to learn that you are eager to engage and work with the Diaspora on moving the development agenda for Zimbabwe. As one of the Ministers who is aware of and was briefed by the Zimbabwe Diaspora Home Interface Program (ZIDHIP) and the Zimbabwe Diaspora Network North America (ZDNNA) on the Diaspora Engagement Policy document in March 2013, we would like to assure you that we are ready to confer with you on this initiative. As discussed then, the diaspora community is the country’s best ambassadors in the host countries they live in. Coordinating and linking the Minister of Finance’s budget statement pronouncements on the framework for engaging the diaspora and the envisaged role of the diaspora in promoting investment with your proposed strategy thrust would generate the multiplier effects needed to succeed. We look forward to working with you on this and other initiatives. As ZIDHIP and ZDNNA, we are eager to engage with government and to contribute to the dialogue with the World Bank if called upon.

Submitted by Wilson Magaya on

This is a great initiative on the part of the minister however I think you may need to consider the following unless I stand corrected:
1) Both ZIDIP - a Government of Zimbabwe driven platform, and ZDNNA an affiliate for North America aspire to; both on the home front and diaspora, create platforms for consultation and dialogue of ideas for the benefit of the country.
2) To this end have you consulted the ZIDIP or the Zimbabwe diaspora on the Diaspora tourism strategy, you intend to table to cabinet?
3) On the issue of brand Zimbabwe, have you consulted the diaspora, whom you correctly want to target to better serve on what issues are damaging Zimbabwe's image amongst Zimbabweans let alone foreigners?
4) You seem to be assuming that there is lack of capacity among Zimbabweans to achieve whatever strategy you put in place, an assumption I think changes color if you look at the diaspora as part of the pool of people you have access to craft and implement the strategy
5) I support your attempts at re-branding, however I think having a whole department to do that is wasteful, why not engage Zimbabwean organizations such as ZDNNA and fund these to build the Zimbabwe image through Zimbabweans everywhere thus whilst building trust amongst Zimbabweans, you make the Zimbabwean the ambassador and image the Zimbabwe you want the foreigners to see-who better than the diaspora to build the image of Zimbabwe one person at a time
6) I would suggest that before you think of the big picture show that you are serious by appointing or at least lobbying for Diaspora to sit on those boards directly under or within the purview of your ministry. This I am sure would send the message that you are serious and would like to reach out to Zimbabweans no matter where they are, to name a few ZTA, AirZim, Parks and Wildlife Authority, can benefit from having some people in diaspora sitting on them.

Submitted by Rhoderick Machekano on

This is a gallant effort by Dr Mugwagwa which deserves our support. Every initiative has to start somewhere and the road may be rocky and all, but the potential in this initiative should not be under-estimated. Instead of being arm-chair commentators and analysts, the diaspora has to engage with the government until they recognize us. Nothing will be given on a platter, but this Zimbabwe is our country too.
I see Rudo in Cape Town asking how she can be involved. I am happy to let Zimbabwean Capetonians that we have been engaging with Dr Mugwagwa for a while in an effort to bring together Zimbabwe diasporas in the Cape Town area. Spread the word.

Submitted by Golden Makusha on

Rhoderick, when is the Cape Town chapter starting? I see there is you and Rudo already. Rose can also join you. We look forward to seeing ZDN(SA) starting soon, good luck!!

VaMachekano thanks for those encouraging words and for keeping the flames burning down in Cape Town. Please do go ahead and connect with Rudo and others to get the Chapter there going, it could easily be an addition to the South African Diaspora Node that would hopefully proudly take its place at the Diaspora Summit come August 2014! I fondly repeat the call: ‘Zimbabwe is our Country too!’

Submitted by Obert Matsveru on

The focus on engaging government is the correct one. Hard as it is, ZIDHIP should continue to impress on government that there should be less fragmentation on its part. we had ben heartened to learn that the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning are taking the lead role on this until we read from Minister Mzembi that he has already prepared his Ministry's strategy to take to Cabinet and designated a Deputy Director without conferring with the Diaspora! What happened to engagement?

Submitted by Wilson Magaya on

This is a great initiative. I am a little moved by the quick steps minister Mzembi is taking. It is noble that tourism is proactive under the leadership of minister mzembi, however I think the following issues need to be considered:
1)Both ZIDIP - a Government of Zimbabwe driven platform, and ZDNNA an affiliate for North America aspire to; both on the home front and diaspora, create platforms for consultation and dialogue of ideas for the benefit of the country.
2)To this end there is need to consult the ZIDIP and the Zimbabwe diaspora on the Diaspora tourism strategy, before tabling to cabinet?
3)On the issue of brand Zimbabwe, there is need to consult the diaspora on several issues among them "what is damaging Zimbabwe's image?" among Zimbabweans before we even think of foreigners?
4)There seems to be an under-laying assumption that there is lack of capacity among Zimbabweans to achieve whatever strategy is put in place, an assumption I refute if one considers the diaspora as part of the pool of people the GOZ reaches out to in process of crafting and implementing the strategy
5)I support re-branding, however I think having a whole department to do that is wasteful, why not engage Zimbabwean organizations such as ZDNNA and fund these to build the Zimbabwe image through Zimbabweans and their lifestyles everywhere thus whilst building trust among Zimbabweans, the GOZ through the ministry of tourism makes the Zimbabwean the ambassador and torch bearer of the Zimbabwe we want the world to see. Who better than the diaspora to build the image of Zimbabwe one person at a time
6)I would suggest that before you think of the big picture show that you are serious by appointing or at least lobbying for Diaspora to sit on those boards directly under or within the purview of your ministry. This I am sure would send the message that you are serious and would like to reach out to Zimbabweans no matter where they are, to name a few ZTA, AirZim, Parks and Wildlife Authority, can benefit from having some people in diaspora sitting on them.

Submitted by Munyukwi on

I tried the website seems the link is no longer available, has the initiative faltered?

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