Are the Zimbabwean Diasporas a real source of Peacebuilding and Development?

via Are the Zimbabwean Diasporas a real source of Peacebuilding and Development? April 2, 2014  by Sheanasu Hove

What are Diasporas?

Nationals from Zimbabwe living outside the country number in the millions. Some say 3 million, some 3, 5 million, and so on. There is no accurate count of the actual numbers. These are known in the modern world as the Diasporas. The term refers to expatriate minority communities that have been dispersed from their homeland, have a collective memory, believe in an eventual return, are committed to the maintenance or restoration of their homeland through transnational activities, and have a collective identity, group consciousness and solidarity.

Direct transnational activities occur when Diasporas, acting as individuals or groups, send money, goods or ideas to their country of origin directly. Indirect transnational activities occur when Diasporas, acting as individuals or groups, urge others, including governments and nongovernmental actors, to undertake activities that benefit their countries of origin.

In some cases, voluntary or professional Diaspora organisations are formed to promote these activities. In the case of organizations with mixed membership, an organization is considered a Diaspora organization when the majority of its board members have a Diaspora background.

In this opinion piece, I intend to share my some few ideas on the potential of the Zimbabwe Diasporas as a real source of peacebuilding and development in our country. I define peacebuilding as activities aimed at the sustainable transformation of structural conflict factors and patterns. My definition presupposes a long-term commitment, on the part of Diasporas, state and non-state actors, to a process that simultaneously addresses the material and the attitudinal level of polarisation that creates tension (mistrust) in our country.

There is a deliberate advantage of putting across such a broad definition of peacebuilding in that rather than understanding peacebuilding and development as two separate fields; I see them as being located along a shared continuum.

There is no better demonstration of the Diasporas’ presence than the huge flow of funds that are remitted each year by this important constituent, which unfortunately tend to be sidelined or completely forgotten when it comes to meaningful participation in issues of national interest.

Through their commitment to the maintenance or restoration of their homeland, members of the Zimbabwe Diasporas engage transnationally. They contribute to development and peacebuilding in various ways, which take many shapes, with variations occurring in who acts, how, doing what, why, where, and so on.

On one hand, and in many cases, individuals often contribute through the sending of remittances to family members. Many families in Zimbabwe depend on Diasporas, making the latter an important source of income in a country that fails to provide social services, let alone feed its hungry citizens. I believe many would agree that Diasporas have come handy in Zimbabwe.

On the other hand, Diaspora organizations implement various projects in our country. For instance, I know of Diaspora organisations, which are doing tremendous work in Chivhu and Hatcliff, and probably many other places, supporting disadvantaged kids, empowering the youth and women through various projects such as improving access to water, healthcare or education.

For this reason, I believe that the Zimbabwe Diasporas are an important constituent whose potential for peacebuilding and development is yet to be fully realised. I recall some conversation I had on the potential of the Diasporas with one of my colleagues who is a World Bank Specialist. In the conversation, he insisted that Diasporas are an important group, which represents a great market that the government can target for investment, growth and development.

My argument is that, given the intimate knowledge they have about the opportunities back home, Zimbabwe Diasporas are best placed to take advantage of these opportunities and make an impact in terms of building peace and promoting development.

While the Zimbabwe Diasporas contribute material, financial and in-kind contributions, a unique feature of this constituent is that there can contribute substantially to social capital. For example, we can take a leaf from Somali PhD holders among the Diasporas who contribute virtually, through electronic communication and the provision of online learning opportunities, to help establish Mogadishu University or to teach at the University of Hargeisa. We can do the same and contribute immensely to the resuscitation of our education system, especially considering the state of some schools such as Nevana Primary School in Gokwe.

How can the government of Zimbabwe take advantage of the potential of this constituent?

Rumour has it that the current government is considering ways and means of engaging the Zimbabwe Diasporas. If this is true, I welcome that development. If it is not true, I offer my advice as to how some meaningful engagement can be started.

We know that past governments have not been forthcoming in meaningfully engaging the Zimbabwe Diasporas for the sole reason that they considered them an opposition constituency. Even during elections the Diasporas do not vote. Food for thought for the government.

The incumbent government must think seriously about the Zimbabwe Diasporas, and their potential in contributing to peacebuilding and development in our country. Politically, I think we have a mixed Diasporas, and in any case, individuals are entitled to their own political opinions.

When it comes to issues of national interests, politics should take a back stage and the nation comes first. With this in mind, I urge the government and leadership across the political divide to lower or remove completely barriers to engagement, and facilitate structured opportunities of meaningful engagement with Diasporas as well as increase information flow and transparency about terms of engagement.

One way of meaningful engagement is to launch a Diaspora bond that allows Zimbabwe Diasporas to make tangible yet minimal socio-economic investments in Zimbabwe. Diaspora bonds are essentially a form of government debt that targets members of the national community abroad, based on the presumption that their emotional ties to the country make investing in such products worthwhile. Sales can be restricted solely to members of a particular nationality or opened to all buyers, with nationals receiving a preferential rate.

I know that in the past we had Homelink. However, I do not hear about it anymore and I am not sure whether it still exists or it died a natural death.

Alternatively, the government should be forthcoming in allowing Diaspora organisations to operate in Zimbabwe without too many restrictions, as is the case now. For example, Diaspora organisations can be easily registered overseas but it is more difficult to do the same in Zimbabwe. The advantage with Diaspora organisations is that they do not need to always deal directly with the actual peacebuilding and development activities. They have great potential in matching foreign investors with projects in Zimbabwe. That is, they bring investors to the country and introduce them to sustainable investment opportunities.

Another important element is that Diaspora engagement takes place not only from the country of settlement but also through (temporary) return and not necessarily permanent return. This comes handy considering that the new constitution allows dual citizenship for Zimbabweans by birth. A number of characteristics may combine frequently. Diaspora organizations, for example, are collective actors that largely function on a voluntary basis, and human capital may best be transferred through (temporary) return. However, in principle, examples of any combination of these characteristics can be found.

Why it is important to engage the Zimbabwe Diasporas?

Considering the wide variety and high level of Diasporas engagement with development and peacebuilding, it is not surprising there is great interest in the topic in Zimbabwe today.  There are a number of reasons for this interest, which relate to remittances, return, resources, recognition and reputation, and I will address each of these in turn.

Remittances have widely been acknowledged as a major source of finances in Zimbabwe almost at all levels, national and household levels. I speculate that past governments have attempted to tap into this resource, but have largely recognized that, since much of this funding stream is private money sent for private purposes, such an approach is problematic. Efforts that would be more successful should focus on lowering the costs of remittance transfers and increasing legal options for sending money.

While the incumbent government may show a great level of interest in Diasporas engagement, I urge the leadership to develop and put in place cutting-edge policies and programmes on peacebuilding and development. This should include enticing voluntary permanent return migration for the Diasporas. This allows Diasporas to return permanently to Zimbabwe with some level of guarantee and appreciation of their contributions to the development of the country. Some recognition could include but not limited to preferential investment opportunities.

Furthermore, these policies and programmes should promote initiatives focusing on return migration as a kind of win–win situation for both individual Diasporas and the country. For instance, there could be programmes that target addressing issues of ‘brain drain’, some programmes would focus on making proper use of migrant resources that are often underutilized in countries of settlement, while others would address migration-related concerns of coming back home after a while in the Diaspora.

The current voluntary migration program being implemented by the UK government, for example, is more to do with that country’s policy of controlling migration. However, at the same time, it promotes return migration for many Zimbabweans. The incumbent government should take advantage of this program and put in place policies that facilitate “safe landing” for return migrants and a programme that allows returning Diasporas to contribute human capital in a beneficial way to the country.

I am sure the government has a wish to make better use of the resources of return migrants. This is plausible. However, the government needs to address issues related to the Diasporas vote, citizenship issues for other Zimbabweans other than by birth, property and intellectual rights and corruption within the governance system.

Collaborating with Diasporas in development and peacebuilding provides recognition of the important contributions made by Diasporas as citizens of both their countries of settlement and Zimbabwe. By recognizing the new realities in the world of modern politics, where many citizens may have transnational ties and increasingly identifying themselves as cosmopolitan citizens, this fact can be turned into a strategic peacebuilding and development resource.

In the context of an emergent consensus around human security and neoliberal conceptualisations of good governance as organising concepts for peacebuilding and development processes, states are increasingly focusing on maintaining good reputations internationally.  At the same time, international interest in migration and development links has increased significantly over the past decade. This can be seen, inter alia, in the ongoing Global Forum on Migration and Development, actions taken by a number of UN bodies, and various initiatives by the European Union and the African Union.  These developments should stimulate the incumbent government to develop policies on and provide funding for or investment opportunities for Diaspora-related initiatives.

I strongly feel that the increased interest in Diasporas engagement should be derived from the benefits of Diasporas participation in development and peacebuilding. Sometimes these benefits are described in policy documents, but often this is not the case, which is problematic, as benefits cannot simply be assumed. Furthermore, there are critics of the approach I have briefly outlined, who are quite sceptical of the assumed value added of Diasporas engagement. Their viewpoints need to be taken into consideration, especially if they are among the actors who are supposed to facilitate the participation of Diasporas in development and peacebuilding.






  • comment-avatar
    Funganayi Mutamiri (UK) 8 years ago

    Well written Sheanesu. Like your name which means The Lord is with us. True the exercise of Diaspora Engagement has begun although I am not a Zimbabwean government spokesman , I think they will announce the plans in the near future. We have started processing bankable business proposals and still appealing for Zimbabweans to come on board with their ideas and a lot of British Investors and other countries have shown interest . These investors (FDI) have shown areas they want guarantees for their investment which I can not detail but these included property rights,corruption,making it easy to do business in Zimbabwe. Many think their suggestions and concerns are fair and these have been put forward to the Zimbabwean government and they are not against indeginisation although this should be done by sector, through negotiation and consensus reached . We will soon announce a scheme for ‘A ‘ and ‘ O’ level internet learning for English, Maths, Physics,Science etc as this is developing and at advanced stages, I am just mentioning here as you indicated to aliviiate the shortage of books and offering an alternative learning. So Zimbabweans lets pull together and this is not to do with party politics it’s about Zimbabwe. Do not be left out send your business proposals or enquiries to

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    apolitical 8 years ago

    The Diaspora are a source of the lack of investment in Zimbabwe in that they continuously demonstrate promoting adverse country publicity and anti government publicity.
    Saying they shouldn’t be deported because of all the good work doing political propaganda demonstrations.
    They are so honest and such an asset according to the propaganda journalist. These honest people who falsely claim british benefits saying they are genuine asylum seekers.
    Then send the funds to family members who need funds because its a family trait not to work for a living.
    Their family don’t pay taxes so thus none of the remittance goes into government or public funds – doesn’t affect any of us. The do as much for Zimbabwe as they do for Britain, take.
    Such an asset to Zimbabwe that we really wouldn’t miss now try to con the people and government that they do so much for the country and need recognition for all their hard work loafing on benefits in the UK. Really what a load of rubbish!
    foreign countries should lock all these con artists up. No wonder the number of e-petitions to the Brit Government to get rid of them- check and see!!!!

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    roving ambassador. 8 years ago

    Hove ,I really admire your patriotic sense , but the apo comment sums up the Zanu way of thinking.
    You have indicated that past governments did not have the will to engage the Diaspora, unfortunately its the same government ,the personnel has not changed .
    As a reminder, home link was a vehicle to loot people’s servings, no wonder it collapsed.
    People really have the urge to invest in Zim ,true, but also be careful of being taken advantage of. The state is a mafia organisation.
    I offered advice to another group to look at investing in Zambia or M ozambique because of their close proximity to Zimbabwe and the fact that they had more investor friendly policies. The idea being if the policies improved in Zim, you can easily relocate if need to.
    Respect of the country’s constitution is paramount. The supreme law of the country should be respected . Currently, Zanu cannot be bothered. So there is no guarantee the state will safeguard you investments .

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      apolitical 8 years ago

      A lot of writing but no information – what I said is my opinion from facts.
      I f you don’t agree prove I dollar goes into public funds and find someone who works for a living.
      If you cant then you agree the Diaspora are a waste of time and effort and should be afforded the same consideration as they give to Zimbabwe – 0.

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    Petal 8 years ago

    discimination against other communities on the basis of colour and other e.g. tribal still plays a role on the continent

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    It just goes to show you how uninformed Apolitical is. There is no country in this world that does not have people in the “Diaspora” In other words all countries have their people working in other countries and they benefit from it. Long before Robert Mugabe and Apolitical there were Zimbabweans in the Diaspora. The definition being A diaspora is a large group of people with a similar heritage or homeland who have since moved out to places all over the world. Why Mugabe himself was in the Diaspora. A lot of Zanu cadres were in the diaspora.”The Diaspora are a source of the lack of investment in Zimbabwe in that they continuously demonstrate promoting adverse country publicity and anti government publicity.” That is what he says the President was prior to Independence. Everybody in the diaspora is there for their own reasons. I wonder if Apolitical has no one in the Diaspora. Very lonely confused chap.

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      apolitical 8 years ago

      @Doctor do little – apt name for someone in the diaspora.
      We actually are talking in the present, wow, – what if anything do they do for Zimbabwe, what have they ever achieved except fraudulent benefit scams in UK?
      TAKE NOTE of all the writing bereft of any fact or evidence justifying that they have done anything for Zimbabwe.
      Every one writes a lot but what’s missing is their contribution to society in general. Not just missing but invisible.

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    Well said Doc.What comes to mind is the Israeli diaspora which is the largest known and props up the Jewish state big time. Without this group Israel would struggle. And then Mugabe’s Ethiopian friend is in the diaspora (in Zimbabwe) so maybe Apo should try to shut up on subjects that he is lacking and stick to Zesa, Dam walls and mixing cement.

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      musaigwa 8 years ago

      Musaigwa you haven’t seen anything yet. Your proposal is very country cetric but you are dealing with a people who think of themselves more than you are suggesting. Diasporas are refused voting only in Zimbabwe when all other southern African countries eg Mozambique is asking for anyone to register and vote as long as two people with requisite documentation can witness. This shows how liberal the gvt is and would like its nationals to actively participate in country developments. In Zim diasporas are treated as criminals except for their resources which are bound to be abused. The ministers and all prefer depositing their resources outside when the rest of us are suppose to support with investment.

      We appreciate you statesmanship but please keep your money elsewhere.

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      apolitical 8 years ago

      @ baby knife
      The real issue is fact.
      There is no evidence to support that all funds from overseas come ftom thr diaspora theyb just claim it for propaganda support.
      Most people I speak to complain of the hardships sending out money for their childrens education – reverse diaspora.
      Then there are the pensions remitted to Zimbabwe.
      The interest payments .
      Finallt the little from those on state benefits in UK.
      Then there is the damage to the repute of Zimbabweans.
      Pubs in London have put up signs saying no Zimbabweans – this is because they are considered trouble makers not the angels the article makes out they are.
      You waqnt some statistics, I visited UK and was invited to a Zimbabwean reunion. Out of 40 people attending 2 had part time jobs the reast were on benefits.
      When people talk of the diaspora from other countries such as Isreal, they use an unfair comparison as those generally are responsible and work for a living, not dependent on others.
      We habve those in prison for crimes of theft and given the con artist approach even via this article – no wonder.
      Fact is they do more harm to Zimbabwe than any good – only one in 10 will send anything to his family – they don’t tell you this because they want to shine inyour eyews through propaganda.
      There lies fact and truth – how much do they send to Zimbabwe – don’t know, there is no record distinguishing between commercial payments,pensions and them. Being good con men they claim everything. If they claimed factual figures appeared remotely honest I may have something to say in their favour – ask for fact and you get nothing like the comments above the nearest being a laughable comparison to the Israelis.

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    Dambudzo 8 years ago

    Before the Diaspora thinks of doing anyhting serious, two issues need to be sorted out; 1. Members of the Diaspora must speak with one voice, act more and talk less, we have too many analysts in the Diaspora who can only talk but do NOTHING 2. The Zim govt MUST officially recognise the presence of the Diaspora, this will be a permanent feature since those children born outside Zim are most unlikely to settle permanently in Zim though they would like to participate economically, if they are viewed with suspicion and treated like second-class citizens at times struggling to get a basic document such as birthcertificate or passport, they will simply kiss goodbye to a dying nation. Zimbabwe needs Diasporans more than Diasporans need Zimbabwe. At the centre of it all is DUAL CITIZENSHIP.

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    dennis chikuve 8 years ago

    Apolitical is an idiot. He needs to go back to school to write proper English and understand economics 101. If someone in the Diaspora sends their family US$100 through a friend visiting Zimbabwe and not necessarily through the bank, Western Union etc and the family buys bread, milk etc from TM then the money circulates in the general economy. Get it comrade? Why do you want to comment on issues that are way beyond your intelligence?

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      apolitical 8 years ago

      @dennis chikuve I will try to comment slowly so that you can understand.
      If your family doesn’t work they put no effort into the economy.
      Just because they spend money very likely on booze given the character of the family doesn’t help us to much, the end vat out of it is next to nothing.
      Go to school today and listen when they try and teach you maths.
      Lets see now who was the idiot – the one looking in the mirror when he speaks.

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    Mixed Race 8 years ago

    What an ill informed article which takes everything in simplistic thinking of a five year old child.Please learn to put the horse in front of the cart not the other way round.Let us respect our new constitution first and apply the rule of law without favours then things will start rolling.If you give me my freedom I will automatically work hard to further myself and my country without anybody asking me to do it.Zimbos like to write fully academic reports to show off with their little skills.
    You claim that your World Bank specialist said this and that to support your carelessly researched report,how about this,I have my son in law who is right at the top of economists for UN who advises the Secretary General on all UN projects, told me that this diaspora issue can only work successfully once the country’s politics is right for any economy.
    Check your facts about Somali,you will realise that the politics there had to change to allow those who left in the first place because of certain ideas they did not like have at last be removed in their statutory books to accommodate them.Why come back when the rules and regulations you ran away from are still there?Think well before writing articles,we used to keep quiet but not anymore.

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    Funny you should mention that if someone’s family doesn’t work. How much of the population is working and contributing to the economy? Who is to blame? You can screech how many times but the truth is you are choosing your debates. This website is filled with stories of your favourite party’s shenanigans. But you steer clear of those debates. And for your information I am domicile in Zimbabwe and my name is better suited than yours as you are a one sided individual who calls himself Apolitical.

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    kelly 8 years ago

    Apocalyptical or Apolitical whatever your name is, your IQ sucks, your geographical knowledge of the world seems to be limited to the UK and Zimbabwe. The diaspora from Zimbabwe are all over the world and unlike your imaginary acquaintances who disgrace themselves in bars, the majority of our diasporans are highly educated , hard working and hold prestigious jobs. They are children of the soil and whether you like it or not they ,along with all hard working Zimbabweans will rebuild the country, its a matter of time