MY PRECEDING blog, Diasporas Inclusion: The Jangling Discords, attracted very interesting contributions from readers and I would like to thank everyone including those who wrote to me directly.
Evidently, the Diasporas have overwhelming emotional desire for participatory inclusion in the affairs of their country. Yet their engagement will forever remain a thorny issue for as long as political leaders continue to view the exiles as competitors for political space.
Politics aside, Diasporas are an investment of their home countries and those home countries which happen to be mainly third countries deserve a return from their investment. As to how that return is achieved, it’s a matter for debate.
What is not a matter for debate is the fact that third world countries cannot and should not be producing human capital for developed countries for free. It is therefore incumbent on home countries to craft strategies that mitigate brain drain or its effects.
It is imperative that the Diasporas inclusion debate be divorced from competition for political space and focus on the Diasporas’ socio-economic developmental potential. Whilst political engagement would be important to avoid disenfranchisement through selective inclusion, I personally wouldn’t mind if it’s on the footnote of the Diasporas inclusion agenda.
The one priceless intangible asset when it comes to Diasporas is simply the fact that there exists an amazing emotional attachment and desire to participate in the socio-economic development of their home countries and Zimbabweans are no exception. This should underpin any inclusion policy framework.
The level of brain haemorrhage suffered by Zimbabwe is not fully documented, but it is widely acknowledged that over the last decade, Zimbabwe lost well over half of its skilled manpower through migration to the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa amongst other countries.
A 2004 International Organisation for Migration (IOM) study entitled ‘The Development Potential of Zimbabweans in Diaspora’ revealed that almost 25% of Zimbabwean emigrants were trained doctors and nurses, and 70 to 90 per cent of Zimbabwean university graduates worked outside their country of origin.
Whilst there are no confirmed figures, it’s is generally accepted that there are as many as four million Zimbabweans resident in foreign countries.
In 2006, alone the Home Office in the UK granted work permits to 1,610 Zimbabwean nurses – reportedly far more than the numbers of nurses being trained in Zimbabwe each year.
Zimbabwean professionals are making significant contributions in literally every sector of the economies in which they have settled in large numbers, be it construction, engineering, health, banking, insurance, etc. This level of contribution represents a gain to the host countries and loss to Zimbabwe.
It pains me to think of all the pensioners living in poverty in Zimbabwe partly because their investment, the Diasporas, is sustaining pensioners in foreign lands.
There is growing recognition among academics and policymakers of the empirical connection between migration and development. China, Israel, South Korea and India have all successfully harnessed their Diasporas for development purposes.
According to the Asian Development Bank (2004), 19 out of the top 20 Indian software businesses were founded or managed by Indian diaspora professionals. As of 2002, the Indian software industry had created 400,000 new jobs and had exported over US$6 billion worth of goods and services.
With the correct participatory framework, and institutional support, Zimbabwean Diasporas can be a source of knowledge, facilitator of research and innovation, technology transfer, skills development and socio-economic development. It is only when the correct integration policies and platforms exist that the socio-economic development potential of Diasporas can reach significant levels in business creation, business exchanges, business and trade links, investments, remittances, social networks, skills circulation, human capital transfers and exchange of experiences.
To argue that Zimbabwe does not have capacity to carter for the Diasporas is to trivialise the argument. Diasporas inclusion should not be narrowed to getting people back home and giving them jobs. It’s about facilitating investments, entrepreneurial blossom and job creation. These need to me supported by other civil and political rights.
It would be folly of me to propose an inclusion agenda for Zimbabwe without first looking at what other countries faced with similar problems have done or are doing.
Many countries in the world today have special bodies dealing with Diaspora issues and these include Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Tunisia, Mali, Ghana, Benin, Senegal, Armenia, Chile, Brazil, Syria, France, Australia, Italy, Turkey, Peru and Azerbaijan amongst others.
These special agencies tend to be very diverse but serving the same purpose. Examples are the Ministry of Senegalese Abroad, the Bangladesh Ministry for Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment, the Directorate for Chileans Abroad, the Presidential Office for Mexicans Abroad, the Council for Turkish Citizens Abroad, and the Serbia and Montenegro Directorate for Diasporas.
In Ethiopia, there are three different bodies that deal with the Diasporas: The General Directorate for Ethiopian Expatriates (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), the Ethiopian Diasporas Co-ordinating Office (Ministry of Capacity Building), and the Diasporas Desk in the Addis Ababa City Government Investment Authority.
The Ministry of the Haitians Living Abroad is tasked to collaborate and support Diaspora communities with concrete initiatives, to facilitate the services of the Haitian state to the members of the Diasporas and to advocate for the interests of the members of the Diasporas.
Kenyan missions and embassies are mandated to be the link between the government and the Diasporas and to promote a change of attitude towards those in the Diaspora. In particular, encouraging them to establish associations and contribute towards home country developmental goals.
The existence of special bodies in many countries shows the level of policy interest. It is, however, imperative that deliberate integration policy incentives exist to fully realise the potential of the Diasporas’ contributions.
Zimbabwe Diasporas Inclusion Proposal
I believe that the following should form part of Zimbabwe’s Diaspora inclusion policy agenda.
I believe that time has come for brain gain, and this can only be achieved through a change of attitude and approach. Zimbabwe should declare a Zimbabwe Diaspora Week. A week to engage and celebrate Diaspora talent. A week to recognise Diaspora skills and resources with the view of leveraging them for home country development. A week to acknowledge that its time for brain gain, a week to accept that with the correct inclusion policies and programmes, Diasporas can be a big brain gain.
This is both a symbolic and concrete way by which the home country can formalise the status of the Diaspora population. Whilst acknowledging that the issue of dual citizenship has many political facets and is dependent on regulation of both the home and host country, many countries are now opting for dual citizenship as a method of integrating the contributions of the diaspora population.
Examples include Egypt (1983), Ghana (2002), Philippines (2003), Burundi (2005), Australia (2002), India (2003), and Armenia (2005) amongst others.
Zimbabwe should allow dual citizenship. Where host countries’ laws prohibit dual citizenship, and Zimbabwe Diasporas are forced to give up their Zimbabwe passports to acquire host country citizenship, special national IDs must be availed. Such IDs should reinstate all citizenship rights.
All Diaspora Zimbabweans be it first, second or subsequent generations should be entitled to dual citizenship by means of passport or special ID.
Right to Vote
The Diasporas’ right to vote should also be part of the inclusion agenda. We cannot disenfranchise the Diasporas on the one hand and seek to engage them on the other. The right to vote offers the Diasporas access to their home country’s political decisions and is a concrete way of ensuring that their specific interests are represented.
Italians abroad have the right to elect by mail twelve representatives in the parliament and six senators to represent the interest of Italian Diasporas. French Diasporas elect Assembl’ee des Français de l’Etranger which is chaired by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs.
External voting is also offered by Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor, Bosnia, Mozambique and Herzegovina, amongst others. In all cases, external voting ensures that the Diasporas are represented in civilian and political life at home, which contributes to the individual’s empowerment, participatory involvement, and more importantly creates incentives for continued Diasporas engagement.
Diaspora Members of Parliament
There are more Zimbabweans in South Africa, or in the UK, USA or Botswana to name just a few host countries than any given parliamentary constituency in Zimbabwe. The socio-economic significance of these Diasporas will forever be unrealised as long as there is no calculated institutional capacity and/or inclusion policy framework.
I believe that all countries with a significant amount of Zimbabwe Diasporas should be designated as diaspora constituency and the Diasporas should be allowed to elect their own MP.
Ministry of Diasporas
The co-ordination of Diaspora inclusion policies and programmes need to be done holistically if the intended outcomes are to be realised. The easiest way to achieve this is to have ministry specifically mandated to represent the interests of Diasporas, to spearhead policies and programmes aimed at leveraging Diaspora skills and resources for home country socio-economic development, to champion Diasporas integration irrespective geographical limitations, and to be the interface between Zimbabwe government and the Diaspora communities.
Host Countries Lobbying
There should be concerted and systematic lobbying of host countries, especially developed countries, to come up with value added programmes that facilitate the Diasporas to contribute to the socio-economic development of their countries. There are probably more Zimbabwean nurses working for the UK National Health Service (NHS) than all the nurses working in Zimbabwe’s health delivery system. The same may be true with a lot of other sectors like construction, social services and engineering.
How nice would it be for the host countries to facilitate voluntary, fully paid for secondment? For example, the NHS could have a scheme whereby all Diaspora health professional could be entitled, over and above their annual leave, say a month per year, to go and work in their country of origin and still get their full salary.
The Home Office would only need to be lobbied to ensure that the immigration status of people participating in such schemes is not affected. Most big companies and organisations have a budget for social responsibility and that should extended to help industries and training institutions in developing countries from which they get free skilled manpower. All these things can easily happen but only if there exists institutional capacity and government to government lobbying.
Increased globalisation results in increased international human mobility and many people now belong to more than one society. It is not enough to mourn about Diasporas acquiring foreign citizenships without creating platforms for Diasporas to be sustainably engaged for socio-economic benefit of their home countries.
When it comes to human mobility, there are things that you cannot control. The day we will realise this simple fact is the day most developing countries will be better placed to mitigate brain drain through corrective Diasporas inclusion policies. It is the day we will realise that diasporas are indeed a brain gain, a people on a mission to enhance their qualifications, experiences, exposures and are emotionally motivated to help their home countries. Policies of Diaspora integration need a tripartite co-ordination with the input from the Diasporas themselves, the host and home countries.
It is only when the correct integration policies and institutional platforms exist that the socio-economic development potential of Diasporas would be realised. I believe one day Diasporas’ contributions would move beyond remittances.
Jeff Madzingo is the CEO of New Zimbabwe Media Ltd