Policy vacuum unsettles Diasporans

Zimbabweans living abroad say they are concerned over the absence of a framework to promote invest­ment into the country by locals living in the Diaspora. This was the bold message raised during a session at the Zimbabwe Investment and Trade Conference that was targeted at encouraging Zimbabweans in the Dias­pora to actively participate in the mainstream economy by starting businesses.

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Ms Norah Tapiwa, a Zimbabwean working in South Africa, said they once lobbied the Government for the formulation of the policy but nothing had happened. It is estimated that more than three million Zimbabweans are living abroad, with the majority of them in South Africa. “Without a Diaspora policy, there is no need to engage us. We once lobbied for the policy but we did not get any response,” said Ms Tapiwa.

Musa Khumalo, an engineer with a South African mining company, who concurred with Ms Tapiwa, urged Government to move quickly in putting in place the framework. “A policy will give us some confidence. Let them (Gov­ernment) put it in place. There are many Zimbab­weans prepared to establish businesses back home.” Ms Khumalo has worked in SA for the past seven years.

She added: “Asking for a policy does not necessarily mean we are special or want to invest millions. But a pol­icy for that sector of investors would certainly be a good idea.”

Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Min­ister Tapiwa Mashakada said the formulation of the Dias­pora policy hit a snag after the ministries involved in for­mulating the document differed “on cer­tain issues”.

But he urged Zimbabweans living abroad to set up businesses even in the absence of the policy.

“We will guarantee the safety of your investments. So you do not need to wait for the policy — because you can wait forever. Let the policy find you there. This is the time to invest in Zimbabwe.

“Let us start growing the cake by starting new busi­nesses while the Diaspora and migration policy is being worked on.”

Minister Mashakada said the policy document was returned to the responsible ministries — including Eco­nomic Planning and Home Affairs — for revisions.

Apart from the policy, it also emerged that most of the Zimbabweans living abroad lacked information on devel­opments back home. They challenged the embassies to continue updating the Diaspora commu­nity with social, economic and political developments, to stop them rely­ing on media reports — some of which were distorted, they said.

Most of them generally supported the indigenisation policy but did not know how they could be involved.

“As Zimbabwe targets a US$100 billion economy by 2040, what will Zimbabweans own then?

“We appreciate the indigenisation and empower­ment policy but how are we going to be involved?” said Mr Vengayi Chigudu.

National Indigenisation, Empowerment and Eco­nomic Board chairperson Mr David Chapfika told the seminar the Government was already working on a com­prehensive programme to assist those willing to go into business to raise the capital.

Countries that have benefited from money repatri­ated by their foreign-based nationals include Ethiopia, Ghana, Philippines, India, Italy and Cape Verde. – The Herald

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