Zimbabwe’s economic difficulties have resulted in many Zimbabweans leaving the country in order to make a living elsewhere. Statistics say millions of Zimbabweans are living abroad. More than 4 million Zimbabweans are dotted across the globe in search of opportunities. It’s easy to paint a picture of the grass being greener on the other side but it’s not really that simple. There are two sides to every story.
Economic fortunes aside there are still a host of problems that Zimbabweans abroad have to deal with that they otherwise would not have to at home. Issues of racism, second class citizenry, exclusion and culture clash all take their toll.
While our country does have its own history with racism it’s fair to say that Zimbabweans exposure to racism at home is limited to certain settings. The experience is markedly different in other countries. In Europe, America and Australia it is prevalent and shockingly in China too.
Second class citizens
They say home is always best but they don’t tell you why. Dwelling in the diaspora comes with the challenge of being regarded as a charity case by virtue of your origin. Zimbabwe’s troubles are well documented and while people are certainly not giving you charity outright there is a tendency to expect Zimbabweans to be happy with what they have access to in certain places.
This closely links with second class citizenry but it’s effects are much deeper. In a country like South Africa where Zimbabweans have found it easier to flock to there’s a system of cherry picking in which the authorities will make it easier for those with skills to be documented while making it difficult for the lesser skilled. Their house their rules of course but the interesting thing is that rules may be less stringent for an immigrant of European origin. What this leads to are undocumented people who are excluded from sometimes essential services and needs.
It’s little spoken off but is a big issue that affects many who choose to find a new home in the diaspora. The effects of this are seen in both social and professional spheres. In the professional sphere it’s quite interesting to note that whilst Zimbabweans are hard working people our national culture is not one of hard work. Many have noted that the work cultures are more intense in the diaspora. As unpopular as the opinion is it rings true. Social settings are also very different in some of these countries and this may lead to undesired psychological effects as we see some shocking stories come out of the diaspora.
It’s certainly not all bad by any measure. Zimbabweans have gone to the diaspora out of necessity. There are real nerds and responsibilities that have driven people to leave their homes. And many have gone on to great achievements from the diaspora.
Taking care of home
The need to take care of families is the greatest need that has driven Zimbabweans abroad. And families have been supported and strengthened. From things as small as diaspora remittances to investment from abroad the contribution of Zimbabweans to the country is massive. The opportunities to earn this money just did not exist within the country. A contraction of the economy is literal reduction in activity and opportunities. As our local products become noncompetitive we effectively outsourced manufacturing by importing from other countries.
The diaspora experience has also given Zimbabweans exposure. Our little landlocked country has experienced to offer but they are limited to our setting. Through diaspora Zimbabweans have been exposed to much more in the way of ideas. This has really opened up our country in spite of our other challenges. Zimbabwean innovation is a real marvel. While it is crowded out from the macro spaces you need only look at the small and micro economy of Zimbabwe to understand just how innovative the people are.
Zimbabweans have gone on to achieve world class status through the diaspora. Zimbabweans in varying exploits have conquered the world or something like it. Our current minister of youth, sport arts and culture Kirsty Coventry is a great example. Danai Gurira, Grammy Award Winner Brian Soko and the young lady who recently made waves on social media. She became part of Mercedes Formula one team pit crew and drew the attention of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. The talent is undeniable but certainly these individuals got as far as they did with the influence of the diaspora environment. There are many more stories of similar nature.
Nothing new here
While we speak of the diaspora migration issue as some huge shock it really isn’t new. It is in fact just the latest iteration in a trend. Rural to urban migration was the big thing before it and in all honesty the patterns match. The same opportunities that were availed to rural communities as a result of urban migration are the same being availed to Zimbabwe as a result of diaspora migration. While the challenges are more complex the times and technology mitigate this where possible.
The grass may not always be greener on the other side. There are tales of success and lack of in the diaspora but this experience is what we have and nothing else to compare it to realistically.