Nick Mangwana View from the Diaspora
Now that the “Two Patricks”, Indigenisation and Finance ministers Cde Patrick Zhuwao and Patrick Chinamasa respectively, have found each other and in that a common ground for the implementation of the indigenisation policy, this week’s piece had to be hastily changed to focus on how Zimbabwe can
unlock value from the Diaspora and hopefully, among other things, mobilise resources for drought relief.
Those in Zimbabwe are trying their best but there are a lot of questions on how Grain Import Licences are being issued with accusations and counter- accusations flying around. What does it take for the Diaspora to collectively join the drought relief effort: Diaspora poverty alleviation about looking after one’s family left in Zimbabwe?
It is much bigger than familial microcosm. Philanthropic activities are one of the major roles the Diaspora can collectively play. This contribution from the Diaspora in philanthropy in the home nation is what is called by others Diaspora Fourth Pillar Development Aid. Zimbabwe has not been able to realise benefits from this. But other nations with a big Diaspora community have managed to creatively unlock this value. To help us discuss maybe it is best to have a simple definition of a Diasporan first.
For our purpose here, for any emigrant to meet the definition of a Diasporan, they must maintain a link with the homeland. Those that no longer maintain a link are no longer Diasporans. The African Union definition of an African Diasporan is that of person of African origin who lives outside the continent who irrespective of their citizenship is prepared to help with the development of the continent and the building of the African Union.
If one would derive the definition of the Zimbabwean Diasporan from this then it would be a person of Zimbabwean origin who regardless of their citizenship or other nationality is prepared to contribute to the development of Zimbabwe. This clearly excludes people that were born in Zimbabwe but on settling in another country have lost all interests in the motherland. It covers only those that remain interested, engaged and concerned about Zimbabwe. In short, the definition implies patriotism.
To unlock Diasporan value there is a need for a high level governmental body to interact with the Diaspora. Zanu-PF as a party has done it in the Commissariat Department. That is helpful. What is needed is to have the same at State level. Burundi does it through a department in the Ministry of External Affairs.
In Sierra Leone it is a department under their equivalent of the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) with a full principal director in charge. Nigeria has housed their Diaspora organisations within their embassies. Ghana has it under Tourism.
The Rwanda government has the Rwanda Diaspora General Directorate. There are many such endeavours by many countries to unlock the value of their Diaspora. The Rwandese Diaspora now has a very functional mutual fund among other value addition systems. There is the Sierra Leone Humanitarian Organisation which sends ambulances and medical equipment to Freetown. They helped in reconstruction of their country. Ghana has the Sikaman Organisation which helps with relief after national disasters. The Ethiopians have theirs for infrastructural development. Some have Home Town Associations for developing areas they hail from. As for Zimbabwe, there is no price for guessing.
There is a need to realise that Diaspora engagement strategy is not just Diaspora bonds and harnessing remittances. In saying that it’s high time the Diaspora remittances stop being seen as just that. They are poverty alleviation funds as well as economic developmental funds. The reason why this is key is because the Diaspora sentiment is quite clear and it should be engaged.
If this is not done Zimbabwe will continue to miss a glaring opportunity and we seem to have been doing more of that lately by not embracing the fast changing world around us. We love the world style, fashion and taste of fines things. Whatever new fad that comes out we latch on to it. Well, we also have to latch on to the new world order, new ways of thinking and new ways of governing.
In the issue of releasing full benefit of the Diaspora, we are miserably trudging behind other nations.
When the International Organisation for Migration held its Diaspora Minister International Conference in 2013, which minister represented Zimbabwe?
Which Diasporans also represented Zimbabwe? For a country with a good portion of its citizens outside who contribute so much, we cannot afford to relegate this constituency to that level of inconsequentiality.
The Government of Zimbabwe should recognise the Diaspora as developmental partners and not a mischievous political nuisance. Zimbabwe has a lot of donor agencies as development partners. These are funded by foreign tax- payers. The Government engages these foreign agencies. But there appears to be low priority in engaging its own citizens as developmental partners; people that understand the social and cultural context of their own country.
People who know what works and what doesn’t to work in their own country. People that can distinguish between Utopia and reality. In most cases the Diaspora are passionate about their country and want to give back including in the impending drought relief. They are not asking for much in return. Just respect from the top level of the establishment.
Whenever they are kicking a fuss it is because they want what is best for their country. They have seen social practices elsewhere and they wish that for their own homeland. They are not a menace. They are assets. They are not a threat. They are an opportunity. Any country that fails to recognise that value is missing that opportunity. It is time we overcome our penchant for missing the boat.
The only way Zimbabwe can understand its Diaspora is to have a high- level communication channel with it. And that is at either ministerial level or at the very least at departmental level and Zimbabwe should invest in understanding its people who live elsewhere. Once that is done then that will cascade downwards.
Mutual respect is so key if the Diaspora value is to be unlocked. Is the Diaspora misunderstood? Unfortunately, the answer leans on the affirmative. There is no space for an explanation here but again I will make it subject of another instalment.
In Zimbabwe Foreign Direct Investment has been struggling to match up to remittances as part of the inflow of funds. In short, a lot of the overcirculated filthy currency in Zimbabwe came from the Diaspora as crispy new notes which was remitted for the succour of the people.
It is those at home that take whatever currency that has been sent to South Africa, Dubai or China to bring back imports. Or sometimes to the UK to import cars. But when it comes to the Diaspora cash money flows in one direction. That is to Zimbabwe.
The equation is simple to balance, engage with the Diaspora and you unlock its value. Respect the Diaspora and they will buy the Diaspora bond, donate their skills for free whenever they are back home and build synergies with selected institutions. Zimbabwe has a very large body of health professionals outside the country who are keen to give back. They want to fund medical interventions and train locals.
Just respect them and make it easy for them and you will unlock their value. No matter how much as a country we pump our chests and believe we have it all and we know it all there is more out there. Let us be humble enough and accept that we need help from our own people. That way we would not end up exporting more rare currency to India and other countries that treat our elites who can afford.
We are wasting money and more dirty money will circulate if we keep on this trajectory. Does anyone even realise that the developed medical service in India where our “Who is who” go for medical treatment is a foundation of the Indian Diaspora? This was because India took calculated steps to unlock the value of their Diaspora. Talking of India’s technology and its Diaspora, India’s diamond industry and its Diaspora needs its own columns. Suffice to say Zimbabwe surely can learn a thing or two from others.
Resentment against the Diaspora needs to be addressed by simply changing the national narrative. At least Zanu-PF now has two Diasporans in Parliament, Hon Zalerah Makari and Terence Mukupe. That is progressive. If no motions are moved on unlocking the Diaspora value then they would have failed their former comrades.
While they have their constituencies who voted them in they also have a national responsibility. And in engaging the Diaspora Hon Makari has started well. She needs to be supported by all Diasporans. Let it be clear that the Diaspora is not looking for privileges. It is clear that would generate resentment with those at home.
They just want to be respected and be engaged to make an input in matters that affect them and their country.
For the Government’s Diaspora policy to succeed, the Government needs to understand this constituency.