Govt aims to harness Diaspora resources for development

US$1,4 billion sent home last year
tapiwa_mashakadaHARARE Everybody knows that about 4 million Zimbabweans (a quarter of our total population) live abroad, mostly in South Africa. What is not so well known is that they sent home some US$1,4 billion last year. (Pict

But the government has woken up to the idea that the Diaspora is a valuable resource for future development, and that it must be properly managed. Financial inflows to Zimbabwe from the Diaspora are believed to have risen from under US$200 000 in 2001 to US$1,4 billion in 2009, according to the Potential contribution of the Zimbabwe Diaspora to economic recovery report compiled this year by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

According to a recent study, about 80% of Zimbabweans in the UK regularly send money home. The report noted that orderly and managed migration benefitted the migrants and their families as well as both the sending and receiving countries. It has also been established more than half of urban households in Harare and Bulawayo are dependent on migrant remittances for everyday consumption

Another study by the International Fund for Agricultural Development revealed that in 2006 the Zimbabwean Diaspora sent US$361 million back home. This amount excluded informal transfers. There is no shortage of awareness of the important role that can and should be played by the Diaspora in national reconstruction both the Global Political Agreement and the Short Term Emergency Recovery Programme (STERP) acknowledge this but little, if anything, has been done so far.

Benefits include access to technology and markets through Diaspora networks abroad.

One of the main problems is that the issue has thus far been dealt with on a piecemeal basis by individual ministries without any cohesion. But Minister of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion, Tapiwa Mashakada, says the government has now come up with a coherent national policy for managing migration in order to promote socio- economic development.

Known as the National migration management and Diaspora policy, its broad aim is to provide an institutional framework to manage migration as a tool for national development.

Mashakada aid the goal of the policy was to ensure the exploitation of the development potential of migration through a coordinated and informed response. “Realising the importance and inevitability of migration in the context of a globalising world, it is vital to create an environment that positions Zimbabwe as an active participant, capable of deriving and exploiting benefits from the migration process, whilst minimising the attendant negative impacts,” noted Mashakada in the report. The spread of HIV/AIDS through migrant behavioural patterns is a major concern.

The first step will be to ensure cooperation and coordination. Growing the economy to provide adequate and rewarding job opportunities which will attract lost human resources back to the country is a key component of the strategy. Other initiatives include arranging sequenced short term returns for health and education professionals, aligning conditions of service in the country to those in the SADC region and expanding training in critical areas.

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