Zimbabweans in the United States want to invest back home. Not surprisingly, the government would like to promote this kind of investment from the Zimbabwean diaspora.
To promote the idea and encourage potential investors, scores of Zimbabweans gathered at the Zimbabwe Embassy in Washington DC recently to launch a platform to exchange information and promote collaborative investing among Zimbabweans abroad, the government and non-state actors back home.
Speaking at the launch, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara said Zimbabweans’ personal successes are meaningless if they are not linked to the successes of Zimbabwe.
He said the diaspora Home-Front Interface Initiative, is a framework in which Zimbabweans abroad can play a larger part in the social, political and economic activities of their mother country.
Mutambara said the older generation of heroes, like President Robert Mugabe, Herbert Chitepo, David Parirenyatwa and others, will always be remembered as the generation that contributed to the independence and freedom of the country.
But Mutambara challenged them on what the present generation is doing to boost and drive the Zimbabwean economy.
“What is it that we are going to do as a generation which Zimbabweans can one day say - Yes Zimbabwe, that generation delivered an outcome?
“Let’s go back to history. David Parirenyatwa was the first (black) medical doctor in Southern Africa. Herbert Chitepo was the first barrister … All those crooks and thieves were potential clients. He could have made a million dollars.”
Mutambara told the gathering in DC that, inspite of the problems faced after independence, most of the nationalists, who came before them were smart and could have gone far in their chosen professions, but they made a decision that their individual successes were not enough if their own country was not free and prosperous.
The deputy prime minister also challenged Zimbabwe to follow trends set in other countries and allow some of the country’s best minds to run key institutions in Zimbabwe.
“When you are economically successful you are patronized less. The Chinese are not democratic in the Western sense but people do not patronize them because they’ve got a GDP of US$5 trillion and they have nuclear weapons.
“I am not saying we must go the Chinese way and not have democracy. I am simply saying Zimbabwe must succeed as an economy and also allow for some of our best minds to run the country.
He went further to say: “The Chinese, in their own perverted ways when you look at their leaders – those are top engineers. In the US elections, it was Harvard versus Harvard. Obama versus Romney. So in terms of intellect and pedigree it didn’t matter who won even though policies can differ.”
Mutambara said this meant Americans were allowing some of their best minds to run the country.
He took aim at the quality of the leadership back home saying: “ … And what are you doing in Zimbabwe, what are you doing in South Africa? You have some very slow characters running your countries.”
“That’s why I am surprised you are asking me if I am running for (presidential elections). If I am not running who is running?” He asked.
Organizers of the diaspora-home initiative say their contribution would be helping Zimbabwe leverage access to various skills and investors.
Diaspora network working group committee member, Golden Makusha, said they are also working on developing a skills database, and establishing an independent non-profit organization to mobilize financial, material and human resources to support healthcare, education services and other programs in Zimbabwe.
It is estimated that there are at least two million Zimbabweans in the diaspora.
Some, like Associate Professor Phil Gona of the Bio-Statistics Faculty at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, said they are concerned that issues such as dual citizenship and diaspora voting rights are still being debated in the new constitution, even though the government is asking Zimbabweans abroad to contribute to the struggling economy.
“Dual citizenship is an issue that is addressed and is implemented the world over. Who is little Zimbabwe to say we are not going do it when the whole world is going that way?”