AS Zimbabwe Development Forum (ZDF), an organization made up entirely of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, we hereby proffer our response to Honorable Minister Jonathan Moyo’s quest to “woo” the diaspora. We, as a group, exist solely to advance economic growth in Zimbabwe while enhancing the economic well-being of individual Zimbabweans in their many colours and tribes.
As an organization, our power is derived from the diaspora community throughout the world. The diaspora constituency gives this organization direction, purpose and its mandate. We are constantly inviting and contacting different diaspora groups in different countries and educating them on our mission. Those whose doors we haven’t knocked on yet are on our consultative path.
As a fast-growing organization of Zimbabweans in the diaspora, we are committed to the mobilization of human and material resources for the development of our country in the areas of education, health, business, industry, agriculture, to name just a few. In pursuit of this goal, we would like to engage the government of Zimbabwe with our ideas and programs, being aware of the importance of engagement, for without it, our efforts are likely to face undue opposition and stumbling blocks.
Our members have asked us how we are going to act as a vehicle for economic and social development and we assured them that we would engage the government and other interested partners in order to realize our full developmental potential as we offer the alternatives to tried, tested and failed choices of the past. We all want a successful country. Granted, we are not naive to the challenges in our quest to better the livelihood of that gogo in Gwanda, the sekuru in Chivhu or the young executive in the Harare or Bulawayo CBD. These challenges vary from government policy, largely considered to be unfavourable to investment, administrative logjams that are deeply frustrating for potential investors, endemic corruption and our distance from Zimbabwe.
We have considered the above challenges and we are up to the task. We are ready to economically transform our motherland with the assistance of all Zimbabweans within or outside the country, in government and outside of government. The Zimbabwe Development Forum will facilitate the transformation of Zimbabwe on many fronts. On this point we are confident. We will engage the government, political opposition and all relevant agencies to create an enabling environment for investment and business. We believe the government needs to urgently create an environment favourable for business investment by local Zimbabweans, Zimbabweans in the diaspora and capital inflows from the generality of the international business community. Simply put, Zimbabweans need jobs. With the right policies at the right time, in a conducive economic environment, capital inflows from Diasporas will easily replace foreign direct investment as a driver of economic activity and job creation.Advertisement
This type of investment is Zimbabwean, committed, patient, and is rooted in a passion for one’s country which goes beyond profit. This is the window in the nick of time that Zimbabwe has been waiting for. For far too long we have looked far and wide for solutions to our economic and political problems. Without mincing our words however, as the Zimbabwean Diaspora, we have matured financially and are now prepared to assist Zimbabwe at her time of need. Of course we will not be able to achieve our goals and aims without the total buy-in and total commitment of all Zimbabweans and the current government.
As the Forum, we will seek to marshal economic resources in the form of development assistance and non-resident investments through the connections and networks Diasporas have developed globally over the years. The benefit of being conduits for investment in these cases is that we are in a unique position of intimately knowing the investment destination and also the investment source. We know there are individuals, businesses, and communities willing to invest in Zimbabwe given the right investment climate. But the sad truth surrounding us is that there is intense competition for international capital; the number of destinations far outstrips the sources of capital. Only the best destinations attract international capital. Let’s make Zimbabwe attractive for investment again.
Below are elements that we believe need to be championed:
As this sits in the Constitution, we would like it to be ratified firmly such that, as we come home, we are viewed as returning sons and daughters without any hindrances, including but not limited to waiver of all visa fees. Added to this, some of our members, with their acquired professional skills and economic wealth, are now nearing retirement or ready to retire early as we speak. Dual citizenship allows them to come and settle in Zimbabwe and utilize their skills in gainful volunteerism, teaching and community building without worrying about expiring visas. Within this same realm, Dual Citizenship allows people to borrow in their chosen new countries and go and invest in motherland Zimbabwe. Food for thought!
We would like a review of all policies be-devilling industry and commerce. It is evident that there are policies that are obviously anti-growth, being promulgated in the name of indigenization, politicking or some such like, only benefitting a few, as evidenced by the rampant corruption and lack of accountability on who has what farm and how many stands (lots). This is an area of concern for most Zimbabweans who yearn for a society with straight forward by-laws, rule of law and sound enforcement of policy and legislation.
No one likes being called a Diasporan for life; the term itself speaks to a forced displacement of sorts. We all want to go back to a caring, warm and enduring home. That said, may the invitations to the diaspora to come home go beyond inviting only those with resources alone to come back home. The quest needs to invest energy in making Zimbabwe more welcoming to all her sons and daughters. Zimbabwe should be habitable, not just for those with money, but everyone who belongs.
Why we left
We hope to create and foster working relationships with people who are compassionate enough, sensitive enough and committed enough to understand that their words can take us back or move us forward. We are in the diaspora not because it was a desired choice. Most of us are out here because of limitations at home and we left in droves during a very dark period – may that be understood by all and sundry. The leadership needs to ask itself why and seek to correct the anomaly without peddling insults.
Lastly, the 51 percent business ownership mantra, good as it might sound as a theory, comes with consequences. It is an idea that needs diplomatic tact and winning hearts and minds of those with the money. In most thriving countries, companies employ people, administer payrolls and collect income taxes. The economic benefits created through employment far outweigh the 51%. Our drive in this direction needs to be measured against the benefits of a gainfully employed population. Food for yet another thought.
Alert to pitfalls
The Diaspora is ready to be engaged but we are not blind to the pitfalls. If the environment is not properly calibrated, what spooked Textured Yarns, Willards, Cairns Wines, Nugget Shoe Polish, and Charhons Chocolates will certainly prey on whoever else tries to walk that valley, regardless of where they come from. We like the conversations that are beginning to happen, but they need to be centered on people issues not partisan quests. As Zimbabweans, we do understand and accept that we are the window to the future of Zimbabwe, in all spheres.