ZIM DIASPORA: A case for reverse brain drain

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By Conrad Mwanza

ZIMBABWE is a beautiful country with a colourful story and wonderful people. According to the census of 2016 the population stood at 16 million with almost another million scattered around the world.

Home is where the heart is, so goes the adage and more often than not Zimbabweans, like all other peoples form communities in the host country they settle where they network and foster a sense of home away from home.

In the UK for instance there is an estimated average of at least 200 000 Zimbabweans living, studying and working there. Most have generally done well for themselves by furthering their education, starting initiatives and securing stable jobs and an assured future for themselves.

The foreign contingent has gone to make sizeable contributions in the countries they settled in with various expertise in their fields. Ironically on the flip side this has coincided with trying times back home in Zimbabwe with a steady trickling out of personnel and skilled people who could have added to the growth of the economy and innovation.

As we live and network together abroad many ideas are mooted on how we can improve the country and plough back to the community. Inevitably, the conversation is often steered back to what the government is doing or not doing; should be doing or should not be doing. These interactions have made me realise some things. We all undoubtedly love our motherland but our attitude of late for the majority abroad seems to be drifting towards resignation and indifference.

I strongly believe without a shadow of doubt that collectively, the diaspora community can make significant contributions in our country’s turnaround. These contributions need not be a ‘moving mountains quest’ to impact a life but can be a more concerted effort in changing someone’s life that can simply start at community level.

There are successful initiatives that are fronted by Zimbabweans in the world that are making all the right waves. Imagine a sustained effort to spearhead a community project, donate books to a community library and employ some people from home. These are simple actions that do not reinvent the wheel but have been tried and tested and proven to go a long way in creating the ripple effect that can impact the whole nation. Our attitude as a people and the mind-set to be proactive in working towards the Zimbabwean dream is the final step we can all take in our long journey in bringing back our glory days.

It is always good to draw lessons from other people and the world is strewn with immigrant tales of Chinese, Philippines, Jews and Ethiopians to mention a few, who have travelled the world in search of greener pastures and have prospered. A closer inspection however, will reveal that for most, their success and wealth finds its way back to their motherland in some way. This profits their countries as they contribute, not only through forex, but also invest with skills and innovations.

The case of the Chinese back home in Zimbabwe is well documented. The Chinese rarely settle permanately and invest in the country. The majority usually work and plunder the wealth and profits back to their home country. Their vast interests in construction, mining and textile are well documented. Those in artisanal mining are known to have a rigorous work ethic with no regard to working hours such that at least once in every six months a new team departs back to China with a considerable fortune. Not so the case for most Zimbabweans. We need a radical shift of mind-set and attitude adjustment in deciding to uplift not just the flag but also hopes of our country.

Many Jews have taken full advantage of the American Dream in the USA which is rooted in the Declaration of Independence of 1776 which declares that “all men are created equal with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. The declaration essentially paved the way for anyone in the USA to seize the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work for them.

Zimbabweans are just as hardworking as the Jews but the differences come on the issue of attitude on the part of others. There has to be a framework put in place not just by the relevant authorities but by the people ourselves to stem the brain drain that has become common. A new set of principles based on determined patriotism can lead to a reversal of the capital drain. Jews maintain a strong allegiance to Israel wherever they may be in the world and they keep giving back and importing their skills back home. It is no coincidence that Israel survives its economic challenges whilst some of the richest people in the world are Jews.

A will to do the right thing has, for some Zimbabweans abroad, been frustrated by cases of a deteriorating economy and shady dealings but, and as mentioned earlier, there is more we can do beyond remittances and giving forex back into the country. The government can only do so much on its own. Together we can rise and play our part.

Personally, I have since taken the steps to empower a generation of Zimbabweans back home, one person at a time. On top of my staff complement I also employ talent from back home. Our web designers, graphic designers, content creator and others are recent graduates back home in Zimbabwe. These are people whose salaries often benefits two or three more people on the chain and also helps bust the unemployment rate in the country. There are colleagues who are also doing the same but imagine the effect if more of the over one million Zimbabweans abroad did the same; the country would see rapid change.

Some of us were educated back home and furthered studies in the UK and now have good jobs and salaries. On average Zimbabweans in the UK are estimated to have at least 5,000 in savings per household and some even up to as much as 200,000 in their accounts. It would not be amiss to look at investing in the country. My wish is for a shift of attitudes that, like the Chinese, we work to shift the wealth we make in the countries we go to we work to back to our country and motherland

Far from asking people to squander their savings, our rallying call, instead, is let us empower and engage our fellow countrymen back home through intensified efforts in our contributions and assume a positive attitude in rebuilding this great country of ours.

The answers do not lie with our leaders, the answers lie with us.

Conrad Mwanza is Founder of Zimbabwe Achievers Awards and Publisher of Zim Abroad Magazine, and can be reached at