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Mnangagwa opens door for Diaspora

by Staff reporter
21 Mar 2022 at 06:23hrs | Views
IN light of a huge appetite by the Zimbabwe Diaspora community to invest in the country given the array of skills they have acquired abroad, President Mnangagwa has directed relevant ministries to set up a working committee on diaspora affairs.

The committee, President Mnangagwa said, will redress deficiencies in the current set-up that have resulted in the vital Diaspora community being left behind, even though it is equipped with relevant skills that can aid the country's development, towards Vision 2030, to become an upper middle class economy.

"I am directing that a working committee on Diaspora affairs, led by relevant ministers is formed without delay," said President Mnangagwa.

He directed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade should chair the committee, deputised by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, with the ministries of Home Affairs, Industry and Trade and that responsible for Lands and Agriculture also taking part in the  working committee which will report to Cabinet.

"Other ministries can be co-opted as and when issues relevant to their portfolios emerge. This directive is consistent with our whole-of-government approach which daily guides us," said the President.

In his weekly column, the President, who was recently in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he interacted with Zimbabweans domiciled in that country, said there are a lot of inadequacies in the current approach.

"In my recent interaction with the Zimbabwean diaspora community in United Arab Emirates, it became starkly clear to me that our systems in Government are still to come to terms with this phenomenon.

"While we claim to have a Diaspora policy, it woefully lacks a strategy and mechanisms for seamless interaction with this large and critical body of Zimbabweans abroad. Often, we have come short, including in providing such basic consular services like birth certificates and travel documents," he said.

With the emergency of e-passports and an online portal for dealing with and meeting the daily needs of citizens in the Diaspora, the President said there is scope for holistic change.

"Wherever they are, whatever reasons took them there, they remain our citizens, equal to, and just as important and as deserving as their counterparts here at home."

He said the conflict situation in Eastern Europe revealed serious shortcomings both on the part of Government and that of Zimbabweans living abroad.  A gap in tracking Zimbabweans based abroad was revealed, notwithstanding that eventually the Government was able to evacuate all its citizens.

"While our Embassy in Russia yearly sent missions to Ukraine to update records of our citizens in that country, not many of them were forthcoming until hostilities broke out.

"While it is commendable that we were able to evacuate them in good time, already, a gap had been shown in respect of our capacity to account for and keep track of Zimbabweans as they move across the globe.

"The need to develop this capacity places equal and shared burden on our diplomatic missions abroad, and on Zimbabweans in foreign lands who must register with embassies covering countries which host them."

President Mnangagwa, who has made it his habit to engage the Diaspora community whenever he travels abroad, added that the community possesses skills which are essential to the country's development aspirations.

"Today's world runs on technology, which is why we have accorded Science and Technology a pride of place in our overall curricula. Zimbabweans in the diaspora have been vastly exposed to these critical skills which, as I have discovered, they are willing to repatriate home under various, mutually convenient arrangements.

"Our power utility, ZESA, has just received a handful of high calibre engineers who horned skills in different power utilities of the world. They are now making a difference at Zesa," said the President.

The President said while a comprehensive skills audit revealed serious deficits in almost all areas of science and technology, the country has not taken measures to create avenues and mechanisms for plugging these gaps through skills residing in the diaspora communities.

"We have to have avenues for that to happen, bearing in mind the burden to make our skilled citizens want to come home is that of both Government and the private sector.

"We need a comprehensive policy and strategy for that to happen soonest, including embedding these important skills in our tertiary institutions, our industry and in our innovation hubs and technology incubators. Indeed our Research and Development Policy must tap into Zimbabwean citizens living abroad."

Under President Mnangagwa, the Second Republic has made it its goal to engage and re-engage with all nations and through the diaspora community that has made contacts and built gainful business partnerships in different countries where they live.

"These contacts and partnerships are a solid springboard for transforming this key community into an investor community back home. There is a clear readiness to do so, as indeed I saw in UAE when I was confronted by a Zimbabwean specialist physician who fervently asked for land on which to build a hospital in Victoria Falls Resort City.

"Why should land for such a key and strategic investment not be availed to our own people free of charge? It got me to wonder whether our mantra, ‘Nyika Inovakwa Nevene Vayo', seriously addresses and responds to the needs of Zimbabweans living in the diaspora, especially those seeking to invest back home."

In light of this, the President said the Diaspora Bond which is being set up by the  Ministry of Finance and Economic Development must be expedited so that there is a secure and mutually rewarding avenue for diaspora participation.

"The Victoria Falls Stock Exchange must make this possible, with Government going all out to provide and publicise friendly instruments for diaspora participation.

"The yield for such a bond should be attractive enough and in foreign currency. In equal and urgent measure, our Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency, ZIDA, must step up its activities to target Zimbabweans abroad who may want to set up shop back home.

"These must be facilitated in all ways possible, including by availing industrial stands or factory shells built to purpose for free, or on concessional rates. After all, more jobs will be created and greater value created in our economy."

He said in his interactions with the diaspora, one of their biggest expectation was access to land. He said his Government, that recently carried out a land audit will find ways of fitting them in, however, always alive to the fact that land is finite.

"In my response to them on this very pressing matter, I have tempered them on two counts. First, that land is finite and thus will not grow to match the ever growing demand. While the land audit has revealed availability of more land for allocation and reallocation, clearly not every Zimbabwean will access land.

"Second, I have warned them that there will not be any special treatment of Zimbabwean in the diaspora when it comes to agricultural land. Those in need of agricultural land will have to join the queue like the rest of Zimbabweans," said President Mnangagwa.

The President however said in respect of industrial stands for setting up shop, Government is ready to show preferences to those in the diaspora.

"Be that as it may, we face an ever growing land hunger in the country. This places a huge responsibility on those enjoying access to land already. They must work the land to make it productive. Should they fail to do so, or utilise it fully, Government will intervene to repossess and reallocate to those willing to work the land fully and productively. I am aware that the responsible ministry is amenable to partnerships on agricultural land.

"This is yet another avenue available to Zimbabweans in the diaspora. Alternatively, they could find niche in value chains we have defined for the sector so they invest for export processing. After all, they have knowledge and even contacts in countries which host them.

"With disruptions in global supply chains, the time is now for Zimbabwe to produce for world markets. To that end, we need export zones located close to our international airports, all of which must have modern cold chains. We are looking at revamping our cargo service, possibly in partnership with one of the major airlines."

The President said the diaspora community should not have any challenges in accessing land to build specialised services as was requested by one surgeon during interactions in the UAE. Annually, the diaspora community remits US$1 billion into the country's economy.

Source - The Herald