In my last submission I highlighted the disruption caused by our war of liberation. Our cycle had also been disrupted by the flight of Zimbabweans into the diaspora. Family cycles have have been disrupted, so has nation building and national economic development. What we need is to do everything to attract our skills in the diaspora back as well as foreigners who are skilled into our country.
My observation on how countries have developed will highlight the role of migration in all this. The developed world illustrates that their economies and development were fueled by citizens finding opportunities in their own countries and foreigners also finding the opportunities in the host country. The plight of African countries has been that they have been unable to have both. There has been a net outflow in migration, resulting in a flight of skills which is the most critical ingredient in national development and nation building, not the natural resources or foreign direct investment as many would want to make us think! FDI is important but not more important than skills. Examples to this argument is Singapore, whose citizenry rose up to develop their country and began to attract foreigners with the requisite skills.
Looking at migration statistics in Africa one observes a very interesting trend in that the only country which has a substantial net inflow is South Africa. This is because in spite of the current challenges they face the majority of citizens still find South Africa to be a land of opportunities. This has attracted foreigners to exploit those opportunities and resultant they have attracted the much needed skills, disrupting the development of the other African countries.
The point I make is that our generation in Zimbabwe has been disrupted because many of our skills have now been exported without the corresponding replacement by foreign skills. We cannot talk of meaningful development and economic growth until we can attract those skills back, retain the ones that are here and other foreign skills. My informed position is that what we need is not foreign direct investment but Zimbabweans who are excited about their country and given the opportunity to play their part.
My small contribution to this position is that over the past 12 months I have opened 5 franchised restaurants in Harare and will open another 4 before the end of November 2015. I will have a staff compliment of about 550(new jobs!) of which just over 200 are Zimbabweans who were working in the same franchises in South Africa. Combining the skills of those who stayed and those who left has brought so much synergy in our businesses which I could not have got had I only used the skills of those who stayed, similarly if I had only used the diaspora skills we would have had some serious shortcomings! In essence we have created a business which has created over 550 jobs with no FDI and has managed to create downstream businesses and employment by resolving the diaspora disruption in our generation.
Nehemiah had the same challenge when he needed to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem – he used those who had remained including those from the diaspora, which included him.
WE CANNOT DEVELOP ZIMBABWE WITHOUT ATTRACTING BACK THOSE SKILLS IN THE DIASPORA.
Nehemiah 2:17-18, Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work.