Hunt for greener pastures creates severe brain drain Zimbabwe has been turned into a training ground as it produces the best health workers.

Dr Masimba Mavaza

It is very difficult to write this article when you are in the diaspora, but the truth has to be laid bare out there.

In the past three years, Zimbabwe has seen many experts in different fields troupe to Europe and beyond in search of greener pastures.

As always said, “the grass is green on the other side” and as a result the world has become a global village. But some one is benefiting alone.

Zimbabwe is suffering a serious brain drain as talented and skilled people go to Europe for greener pastures.

A country’s true strength is its people.

To Zimbabwe’s dismay, the country continues to suffer brain drain where the highly educated and skilled leave for the United Kingdom and other countries in search of the so-called greener pastures.

It is not a secret that Zimbabwe, like many other developing countries, is affected by brain drain.

Many Zimbabweans who go to Europe always have a will to come back home after making some money.

But the reality is completely different from that which is wished for.

Zimbabwe is losing doctors, engineers, professors and other skilled professionals and this is definitely detrimental to the country.

The number of Zimbabweans granted work visas to work in the UK has increased by 1 576 percent since 2019, exposing the extent of the country’s brain drain crisis.

The UK’s Office of National Statistics reports that the number of Zimbabweans who were granted ‘Worker’ visas to the UK grew from 499 in 2019 to 8 363 in September last year.

Brain drain is a topic with which many countries deal. The rate at which things are going Zimbabwe will be soon engaging expatriates to return to a revived country full of new opportunities.

Some educated professionals have left Zimbabwe for education and work experience. Some return. Some do not.

The country spends resources in training doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers and many more.

The push and pull factors of this brain drain are wide-ranging and complex.

The Western world has fuelled strife in Zimbabwe so that a systematic brain drain will start. One might be ‘forced’ to leave because of war and/or political instability, but Zimbabwe’s situation is different because there is no war or political instability.

The attraction of higher pay and better opportunities for one’s family has pushed many Zimbabweans away from home.

While the Government can not stop this brain drain as doing so may breach the rights as vested in the constitution on the basic rights of movement, it is drained of skilled labour daily.

Zimbabwe has been turned into a training ground as it produces the best health workers. According to a World Bank report, African migrants have doubled between 1980 and 2019, reaching 30.6 million. This represents around three percent of the continent’s total population.

A new survey of more than 4 500 young people in Africa, aged 18-24, has found that 52 percent of them are likely to consider emigrating in the next few years, citing economic reasons and education opportunities as the top reasons.

The BBC spoke to five young people in Nigeria and South Africa who said they did not feel safe in their countries and lack of access to work opportunities.

But for those in Ghana, the picture looks very different, while those in Zimbabwe are always fed with hogwash and lies that Zimbabwe is a boiling pot and that there is instant money in the UK and elsewhere.

Approximately half of the Zimbabwean migrants stay in Africa, with South Africa and Botswana the most popular destinations.

However, the number of migrants who stay in South Africa has decreased steadily since the announcement that South Africa will be deporting some Zimbabweans by June this year. There is a growing number of Zimbabwean migrants to the Middle East along with Europe, the second most popular destination.

Brain drain has proved to be extremely harmful in Zimbabwe where we are now left with a limited pool of qualified individuals.

It is actually that the young and educated people were more likely than others to want to leave their home country. For those who do leave, it is not to Europe or North America that most go, but to another African country.

The Zanu PF acting chairman in the UK and Ireland reckons that “looking for work” and “escaping poverty and economic hardship” were the biggest factors for wanting to emigrate.

Having family and loved ones abroad could influence that decision too.

Afrobarometer found that one in five people depend at least “a little bit” on cash payments sent to them from another country.

A quarter of those surveyed say someone in their family has lived in another country during the past three years.

Brain drain, which is the emigration of skilled nationals, results in a depletion of skilled human resource in the countries of origin.

Currently, Africa is the world’s youngest continent, with an estimated 10 to 12 million young Africans joining the labour force each year.

Yet the continent is able to create only about 3 million jobs annually.

Matewo Matemba of Northampton recently labelled Zimbabwe’s brain drain as “frightening.” Th countrye has lost thousands of academics, he stated.

Matemba estimates that more Zimbabwean scientists and engineers live and work in the US and the UK than anywhere else in the world.

Researchers in the UK say the foreign-born African population is growing rapidly. These migrants are also more educated compared to those from other continents.

During the last 40 years, Africans have increased from about 80,000 in 1970 to about 1,6 million with the largest increase happening from 2000 to 2008-2012.

This accounts for 4 percent of the total US foreign-born population with Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt and Ghana making up 41 percent of the Africa-born total.

These immigrants had a higher level of educational attainment than the overall foreign-born population: 41 percent of those Africa-born had a bachelor’s degree or higher compared with 28 percent overall.

African students continue to flock to Western education institutions with the UK being the most popular destination country for potential students from sub-Saharan Africa.

It is sad that ambitious African youth perceive the UK as having better quality higher education and access numerous scholarships available for talented students.

As of 2022, there were 31 113 students from sub-Saharan Africa, The top sub-Saharan African countries of origin were Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Cameroon and Ethiopia.

There is evidence of Zimbabweans, especially the younger generation, studying at foreign universities wanting to come home. Being close to their families is a big factor.

The Zimbabwean Government in partnership with various NGOs is encouraging its citizens abroad to return home.

President Mnangagwa has assured Zimbabweans abroad to come back home.

For others, going home is simply not an option owing to various reasons..

Not every African country suffers significant brain drain.

According to a World Bank Study, remittances to Zimbabwe reached US$3 billion.

Generalising the future of Zimbabwe’s brain drain is almost impossible due to the large number of factors involved, spanning cultural, economic and other realms.

What is one’s education? Skill set? How ‘emerging’ is the Zimbabwean country’s economy? Are there opportunities? How is life as an immigrant? Is the new host country growing? – Zimbabweans continue to grapple with these questions.

Mr Kennedy Mupomba, a social scientist in the UK said: “Economic migration is not a new phenomenon, however, I concede that with Zimbabwe has become worse due to a number of factors from colonisation to sanctions which have plagued and ravaged Zimbabwe and caused a lot of damage to a Zimbabwean mindset.

“Economic migration dates back to pre-world wars. A few that come to mind is the potato blight in Ireland that drove many Irish to look for greener pastures in America and England, the birth of Australia thought of as an island of hardened criminals which turned out to bé a land of opportunity for British people.

“Expeditions by Marco Polo, Jan Van Reebeck led to discoveries of gold, diamond, and oil in the Middle East.”

Tawanda Machakaire from Leicester said: “I don’t know how many British, Canadians and Americans who are in China looking to strike rich on the Chinese boom since the early 90s and thousands of Chinese and Europeans in Zimbabwe.

“The recent upheavals in Russia and Ukraine have caused dispersion in the rest of Europe. Humans are nomads, always looking for greener pastures and better experiences, but a country must take measures to control a brain drain which is at an alarming rate.”

It is now up to Zimbabwe to lure back to the country the thousands of skilled workers who have spent the last decade abroad.

It is now that we start to plead with our expatriates to book their return flights to Harare.  With Cde Mnangagwa in office, Zimbabwe is not the country it was when some people left.

It is now full of the opportunities which we are searching for elsewhere. Today, we have got the same at home.

One Zimbabwean embassy employee in the UK said: “It’s in Zimbabwe that it is happening. So let’s go back home guys.”

Visiting Zimbabwean Minister of Information Communication Technology Dr Jenfan Muswere urged investors to forget the clichés, and to focus on the business transformation that is under way in Zimbabwe.

“Business creators in Zimbabwe are younger and younger. The Government is genuinely taking steps to help. I would say the whole image of Zimbabwe abroad – certainly in the mining and agriculture fields has become very positive,” he said.

The list of successful ventures is certainly beginning to catch the eye.

Vazet [email protected]

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