ZIMBABWE – THE government’s economy team is scratching its heads bald over how to get the billions of dollars in financial support and foreign direct investment (FDI) the crippled country desperately needs, and before the key 2018 elections.
All-weather friends in Beijing say the right words but don’t follow the sweet talk with nearly enough cash while the West can’t lend again where it is already owed close to US$9 billion.
Zimbabwe has fared rather woefully against neighbours such as Mozambique and Zambia in attracting foreign direct investment.
Investors are said to be discouraged by inclement conditions which include asset seizures as well as the uncertainty and bickering over the succession of the country’s 91-year-old leader.
But the ruling party is missing a trick hidden in the open, said President Robert Mugabe’s nephew and new empowerment minister, Patrick Zhuwao.
The answer to Zimbabwe’s financial support and investment challenges, the minister reckons, can be found in the estimated millions who quit the country, largely over its failed economy, for better prospects elsewhere in the world.
Zhuwao told Zanu PF’s youth league leadership in Harare that government needed to change tact and tap into the diaspora for desperately needed investment.
“As we seek investment and our officials crisscross the globe for investment we are skirting a critical group of people,” he argued.
“Zimbabwe has about 500,000 professional in the diaspora who have lived in different countries from five to 20 years. These people, over time, have built critical reserves of investments in assets.
“If we are to give an average of, for example, $100,000 in net assets for each of these professional that would translate to about $50 billion sitting out there that could be tapped into and transform this economy rather than continuing to look to foreigners.”
Millions of Zimbabweans are scattered across the globe, escaping a socio-economic and political crisis that has battered Zimbabwe for the past 15 years.
The central bank says remittances from the diaspora have proved a key source of income for the struggling country.
According to RBZ chief John Mangudya, Zimbabwe gets Zimbabwe gets as much as $1,2 billion in annual Diaspora remittances with about 25 percent of exports and foreign exchange in the country happening through the Diaspora.
Non-resident Zimbabweans remain engaged with the country by sending money back to their families but many appear to be wary of government programmes targeted at them.
Some have demanded that government accords them the right to vote if it wants engagement with them on financial terms.