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Zimbabwe suffers brain drain due to fragile political environment, faltering economy

25 Aug 2023 at 06:28hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE has gone through severe economic fluctuations and deadly political violence that brought the entire economy to a standstill.

Of particular mention is the 2007/8 record hyperinflation for a country in peacetime, the 2008 bloodbath during the harmonised elections which saw thousands losing their lives, and the 2019/20 austerity measures.

These events left no choice for both skilled and unskilled citizens but to flee the country seeking economic refuge (escape from their country because the immense poverty they live in prevents them from satisfying their basic human needs and political refuge (people fleeing persecution and conflict).

According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency's (ZimStat) 2022 census results, about 85% of 908 913 Zimbabwean emigrants are living in South Africa, 47 928 are in Botswana, 23 166 are in the United Kingdom and the balance is scattered across the rest of the world.

Independent estimates, however, show that over three million Zimbabweans are living abroad and citizens continue to leave the country.

For instance, statistics released by the United Kingdom (UK) Office of National Statistics indicate a 1 576% increase in Zimbabweans granted UK skilled work visas between 2019 and September 2022.

This gives a clear picture of the extent of the brain drain being suffered by Zimbabwe due to the fragile political environment and a persistently faltering economy and its consequences on the human capital base, economic development and innovation.

However, these Zimbabwean expatriates have become an invaluable asset to the country, immensely contributing to the alleviation of extreme poverty at a time when the cost-of-living continues to balloon.

For instance, the latest poverty statistics from the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) show that a family of six required $2,6 million in July 2023 for it not to be deemed poor, up 4% from $2,5 million estimated in June 2023.

Despite these statistics the lowest paid civil servant is earning $250 000 on average (excluding United States dollar allowance) and this shows that the formal working class is earning way below the poverty datum line.

As such, most households are relying on diaspora remittances as a source of income to meet basic requirements such as food, accommodation, clothing, healthcare and education.

Latest statistics show that in the first half of 2023, the diasporas remitted US$919 million, up 15,3% from US$797,27 million received in the first half of 2022.

In 2022, Zimbabwe received US$1,66 billion from the diaspora, which is 16% higher than the US$1,43 billion received in 2021.

These diaspora remittances are playing a critical role in supporting consumer aggregate demand in the economy thereby helping to power industrial activity.

Even though there was limited individual access to cheap foreign currency provided by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) through the auction system, many businesses were reportedly able to meet most of their operational US dollar demand from domestic foreign currency sales in 2022.

In fact, RBZ provided only US$1,11 billion into the economy in 2022 through its auction system which is 49,5% lower than the total diaspora remittances.

Thus, it shows the importance of diaspora remittances at times of great economic shocks like incessant currency fragility and chronic price inflation.

As such, it is high time the government recognised the vitality of the diasporas by treating them equally with residents, for instance, by allowing a full diaspora vote.

Source - newsday
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