More still needed in exporting graduates

Zimbabwe churns out about 20 000 graduates from its State universities and thousands of others from private universities in the country, many of who may be exported to other African countries in need of skilled labour

Zimbabwe churns out about 20 000 graduates from its State universities and thousands of others from private universities in the country, many of who may be exported to other African countries in need of skilled labour

Lloyd Gumbo Mr Speaker Sir—

In 2016 alone, Zimbabwe churned out about 20 000 graduates from its State universities and thousands of other graduates from private universities in the country, but of those, maybe only a tenth are absorbed into employment, locally.The rest, end up taking other enterprises to make ends meet due to the economic challenges facing the country.

Thousands others, graduate from polytechnics and teachers’ colleges and other institutions of higher learning, but still face the same challenges of unemployment.

Mr Speaker Sir, we end up having an educated but unemployed lot, which could pose a serious threat to the stability of the country given the destabilisation machinations that the country experienced this side of the year.

Yes, the ruling party may have promised 2 million jobs during its election campaign ahead of the 2013 polls, but the economic challenges that we are facing have made it impossible to fulfil that pledge.

On the other hand, countries such as Cuba are collecting as much as $8 billion every year from its human capital exports, a figure that is double our annual national budget since dollarisation in 2009.

The major problem that we have had as a country, is that we put so much focus on precious metals as the major and only source of income from exports, yet there are other sources of income that if utilised and professionally managed, could improve our nostro accounts.

Cuba is no longer relying on sugar or its cigars as the major sources of income from outside its borders, but its healthcare professionals who are in almost 80 countries worldwide.

The Cuban Government collects a portion of the income earned by about 40 000 doctors and nurses that it has sent abroad.

This health diplomacy has allowed it to bust the sanctions imposed on it by the United States of America over the last 50 years.

Recently, this column had an instalment where I raised concerns about how we have not done much to utilise our competitive advantage to improve the economy.

Mr Speaker Sir, as we speak, Zimbabwe has thousands of health professionals, whose certificates of are gathering dust at home because Government cannot absorb them into the system given the run-away employment costs that it has to grapple with.

So many pronouncements have been made by officials in the Ministry of Health and Child Care that discussions were underway to export these sought-after skills to other African countries, yet this has only made it to news headlines and nothing more.

Pronouncements have also been made by the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development that they were working on a human export policy in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare that would facilitate the export of skilled labour to other African countries.

There were claims that Government had signed agreements with several African countries for job placements of Zimbabwean graduates whenever opportunities arise but it seems that ended with the news headlines.

Mr Speaker Sir, why should it take long to come up with a human export policy that will benefit the country, yet some self-serving policies are fast-tracked?

One of the major challenges that we have faced as a country is that of too much talk and little action.

There are so many African countries in need of the skills that we have in abundance here such as teachers, health professionals, engineers and technicians, yet we have not taken advantage of the numbers that we have.

Countries such as Namibia and South Sudan are in need of the skilled labour that we have here. Why does it have to take long for our Government to engage these countries so that we export the unemployed graduates?

Why don’t we export the unemployed nurses to African countries in need of this workforce and then train as much as we can to continue feeding these countries until we have the capacity to absorb them?

At the moment, graduates have to hustle on their own to make it to teach in Namibian schools, yet we expect the same people to remit part of their incomes back home.

The economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West, do not stop the country from engaging fellow African Governments to absorb its unemployed skilled workforce.

Mr Speaker Sir, this is another way of earning the much-needed foreign currency instead of just making pronouncements that are not followed-up on.

Unfortunately, Treasury seems not to appreciate the impact that labour export can have on the national purse if it’s a Government-to-Government arrangement.

This labour export will result in enhanced Diaspora remittances that Government has been crying for since the contracting Governments would pay to the Zimbabwean Government directly.

Moreso, the exported graduates can invest back here, which would open employment opportunities for other graduates who will continue to be churned out.

To that end, Government will be able to improve social services because of the remittances that will be coming from its skilled labour outside the country.

We run the risk of devaluing our education system if we continue to churn out graduates who are not given an opportunity to put what they learnt into practice.

Zimbabwe should take the initiative of offering this workforce to needy countries in a deal that will benefit both the Government and the employees.

If Cuba can earn $8 billion from labour export yearly, some of which comes from African countries, what stops Zimbabwe from earning billions of dollars from the same enterprise?

Mr Speaker Sir, Zimbabwe must take advantage of its competitive advantage in Africa with its famed education system by exporting its skilled manpower that cannot be absorbed into formal employment at the moment.

Imagine if the country was to export just half the graduates, about 10 000 that it produces every year, how much would we benefit from contracting Governments?

It is equally important that the universities’ curriculum is reviewed to make it relevant to the continent than just Zimbabwe, if we are to grow the industry of exporting skilled labour.

At the rate at which universities are being established here, there are high chances that in about 30 years, almost everyone who enrols for secondary education will ultimately obtain a university degree.

It is therefore, important that those skills are utilised.

Mr Speaker Sir, Zimbabwe should consider human capital export seriously if we are to enhance foreign currency inflow.

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