By Mandla Tshuma
Sep. 29, 2016 (All Africa Global Media) — Government has now shifted its attention to Zimbabweans in the Diaspora in its bid for investment in the country’s productive sectors, as foreign direct investment inflows remain low.
Macro-Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Minister, Obert Mpofu, recently launched the National Diaspora Directorate as part of efforts to enhance engagement and participation by Zimbabweans in the Diaspora in national development.
The directorate is in line with the National Diaspora Policy launched last September to boost remittances from Zimbabweans living abroad.
According to the United States-based Migration Policy Institute (MPI), Diasporas can play an important role in the economic development of their countries of origin.
“Beyond their well-known role as senders of remittances, diasporas can also promote trade and foreign direct investment, create businesses and spur entrepreneurship, and transfer new knowledge and skills,” says the MPI.
The director of exchange control, Morris Mpofu, said Diasporan remittances had reached US$1 billion so far this year. This is a significant cash injection in an economy grappling with a liquidity crunch.
Government, which has previously mocked Zimbabweans in the Diaspora for their views against the ruling party, now believes participation of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora would enable the country to benefit from millions of Zimbabweans scattered across the globe by creating linkages and promoting investment opportunities back home.
The country’s Diaspora community is largely in South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, the United Kingdom, US, Australia and Canada. An estimated three million Zimbabwean nationals reside in South Africa alone, according to independent estimates.
The Diaspora community has in the past contributed through remittances for consumptive purposes.
Mpofu said government wanted to widen its focus and expand Diaspora participation in the country’s economic turnaround strategy.
The development comes at a time when there has been a drop in Diaspora remittances into the country.
In the six months to June 2016, Diaspora remittances amounted to US$387, 9 million, 15 percent lower than the US$457 million received during the same period last year.
Zimbabwe has since the late 1990s experienced widespread movement of its people to other countries in pursuit of better economic opportunities due to an economic and political crisis back home.
It remains to be seen, however, if those Zimbabweans living abroad are willing to invest back home.
“It’s strange that government wants the Diaspora to invest back home while it is refusing to allow them to participate in the electoral process by casting their votes from their adopted countries,” said chairperson of the Zimbabwean Community in South Africa, Ngqabutho Mabhena.
He said while Zimbabweans in the Diaspora had invested a lot in the property and construction industry back home, they were not willing to extend to other sectors at the moment owing to rampant corruption within government.
“The introduction of bond notes coupled with corruption in government will not attract any investment from the Diaspora. People will continue to invest in private homes as opposed to other projects,” said Mabhena.
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president, Davison Norupiri, said while they had not received any business enquiries from Zimbabweans living abroad, the initiative by government to engage them was highly commendable.
He said the doing business reforms that government had embarked on could be used as an incentive to lure those in the Diaspora to invest back home.
But economist, Bongani Ngwenya, said it would take significant effort and persuasion on the part of government to succeed in its current drive, especially considering that those in the Diaspora are not allowed to vote for the country’s political leadership.
“The current investment climate is not attractive to everybody unfortunately. There is a lot that the government has to do for this initiative to succeed,” said Ngwenya
Copyright Financial Gazette.