By Gilbert Muponda
The Zimbabwean Diaspora made up of Non Resident Zimbabweans (NRZs) has steadily grown over the years to current estimates of at least 4 million according to IOM UN Immigration.
This is a significant number considering that the recent population census puts Zimbabwe’s at 15.1 million, excluding the Diaspora. This translates to a total population of at least 20 million, showing that 26 % of Zimbabwe’s population is in the Diaspora.
Such a number represents a significant part of the population which needs to be properly engaged and involved in the national development agenda as it can contribute much more than its current levels.
A clear and coherent strategy is required to ensure that the NRZs are an integral part of the national socio economic set up if the nation is to achieve its true potential.
In the 2021 financial year the NRZs contributed more than $1 billion in remittances to Zimbabwe. The amount was well over $1 billion as these statistics are mostly from formal sources which ignore informal and unregulated forms of remittances.
This played a critical role during the Covid 19 induced economic downturn as it helped the Country achieve a positive current account balance.
NRZs have settled across the world and a significant number are considered well educated and middle or upper class. Many have become Global citizens and are at least dual citizens. Whilst statistics vary, significant numbers are permanently based in South Africa, the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Botswana, China.
A number have achieved climbed high on the corporate ladder in these Countries. Some have become well established lawyers, Doctors, Accountants, Artists, Musicians, and Entrepreneurs whilst many have built careers in the medical field with the NHS in the UK being one of the biggest employers of NRZs.
In various sporting fields we have seen NRZs being part of World Champions in sports such as Rugby, whilst cricket has seen a number of Zimbabwean Diasporans do very well. In soccer there’s probably enough NRZs to field several Warriors teams, assuming ZIFA and SRC stop their circus and gets their house in order.
Such talent cannot be lost to foreign lands when ways can be found to tap into their expertise and resources to create mutually beneficial systems which allow NRZs to contribute locally whilst based abroad.
The sheer number and background diversity of the NRZs call for greater formalization of structures to engage the NRZs and assist on improving their already significant contribution to the Economy and national development.
Such structures can conceivably include direct and indirect incentives to visit Zimbabwe more frequently, invest in Zimbabwe and bring investment partners into the various sectors of the Economy. The financial contribution through remittances and investments justifies creation of a whole Ministry to adequately handle Diaspora interests and issues.
Zimbabwe can draw lessons from several other countries which have strong vibrant Diaspora communities that play a meaningful well-structured role in their
home Nations. Leading examples include Nigeria, Israel, India, China, Italy and Pakistan whose nationals have flourished abroad yet remain very involved in their national economic development and progress.
Gilbert Muponda is an Investment Banker, Economist and Entrepreneur. He holds a B. Comm (Finance) and an MBA. He is also a PhD Candidate and can be reached at gilbertmupondagmail.com