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Review of Diaspora Engagement Best Practices
The Zimbabwe diaspora is estimated to be between 500 thousand to 3 million residing in different destinations around the world including Australia, Canada, Botswana, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. According to these projections, Zimbabweans residing outside of Zimbabwe make up to 25% of the country’s population. This has raised interest in the Zimbabwe government causing it to seek to strengthen its national capacity through systematically coordinating a diaspora engagement process to learn best practices.
To achieve this, the Zimbabwe government, in the past decade, has come up with the development of policies and initiatives aimed at engaging the Zimbabwean diaspora and actively promoted their participation in economic, social, and cultural development. For instance, since 2009, with the help of the International Office of Migration (IOM), the Government of Zimbabwe started developing diaspora focused programmatic, policy and institutional interventions.

Best practices that have been implemented

  • The development and adoption of a Zimbabwe Diaspora Policy (2016)
  • The establishment and operationalization of a Diaspora Directorate within the ministry of foreign affairs (2016). The directorate is responsible for coordinating diaspora related issues in consultation with responsible line Ministries.
  • Strengthening the Institutional Capacity of the Zimbabwean Diaspora Directorate for Increased Diaspora Engagement.
  • Promoting Migration Governance in Zimbabwe project under the 11th European Development Fund.
  • Development of a strategy to both protect the diaspora and engage them for mutual benefit.
  • The establishment of a Zimbabwe diaspora advisory council

Challenges to the Adopted Best Practices and Outcomes

  • Trust: There remains a legacy of deep mistrust between the Zimbabwe government and the diaspora. The diaspora feels sidelined because of an assumed political alignment. There is a need for active and cordial engagement and confidence-building between officials in diplomatic missions and the diaspora.
  • Coordination: The lack of formal mechanisms for communication and coordination between the government and the diaspora. This results in the absence of cohesive synergies between the country and its diaspora citizens. The Zimbabwe Diaspora Advisory Council set up in 2016, lacked a key ingredient, the Diaspora representation itself.
  • Diaspora Investment: The lack of enabling financial and legal instruments focused on diaspora investments. The high costs of transmitting money through existing money transfer routes also present a barrier to increased diaspora investment.
  • Diaspora Database: The Diaspora Directorate initiated the creation of a database on the size and spatial distribution of the diaspora, but this is not updated regularly. There is a need to build a self-reporting skills data bank to harness diaspora skills and expertise.
  • Economic Stability: The existence of severe economic problems and a lack of economic opportunities in Zimbabwe combined with dissatisfaction with the government, have been drivers for emigration of Zimbabweans from the country. This has resulted in significant skills shortages in all sectors of industry especially health, education, science, and technology.

Summary

From the review of Diaspora best practices, what is working and what is not, and possible ways of improving, there is a need to build Trust on adherence to the rule of law. Investors need to have confidence in court orders and dispute resolution mechanisms. Legislative changes and the political reforms required need to show real improvements and alignment to regional and international best practice. Such alignment will also impact the current Zimbabwe currency crisis and help attain long-term economic growth.
The current Zimbabwe currency crisis coupled with the monetary policy changes made in 2019 have had a significant negative impact on the banking system. The introduction of the new currency market meant that RTGS-denominated deposits, including government debt, lost significant value rendering the banks undercapitalized. Implementing a stable monetary policy environment for the development of a functional and effective banking system is a prerequisite for a diaspora driven economic growth. Attaining long-term economic growth and sustained development in Zimbabwe will require deep structural economic and political adjustment.
Consistent policies, and broad stakeholder consultations, are essential to success. The 2016 Zimbabwe Diaspora policy was a good starting point but did not have the wider Diaspora input and buy-in because the Zimbabwe diasporas felt they were not involved or even consulted. However, the 2021 Diaspora policy review has had worldwide input from the Diaspora and it is hoped that the views will be incorporated in the revised best practice.