Zim-SA Forum: Lessons from the Ethiopian diaspora

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United in our patriotism, the Zim-SA forum has made strides in providing a unique platform for Zimbabweans in the diaspora to contribute, without any partisanship, towards economic recovery, poverty eradication initiatives, and empowerment of the diaspora since its establishment this year.

By Dr Shingi Mutanga

The Zim-SA Forum held its meet-and-greet event on October 29 at Ambrosia Hall, Glen Austin, Midrand, under the theme Disruptive Investment and Revolutionising Business.

The event was attended by a number of delegations which included Zimbabwe’s Vice President Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe Ambassador to South Africa Mr Isaac Moyo, Deputy Ambassador Mr Robert Muranga, Dr Desire Sibanda the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion, Mr Basil Nyabadza the chairman of Arda and Mr Sifelani Jabangwe of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries.

Other speakers for the day included media entrepreneur Mr Tommy Deuschle, Mr Brian Dlamini, Mr Mabobo from the National Youth Development Agency of South Africa, business people, professionals and people in investment.

United in our patriotism, the Zim-SA forum has made strides in providing a unique platform for Zimbabweans in the diaspora to contribute, without any partisanship, towards economic recovery, poverty eradication initiatives, and empowerment of the diaspora since its establishment this year.

President of the forum Mr Anele Ndlovu underscored the purpose of the forum, saying: “Our purpose is to build self-esteem, self-efficacy and hope among Zimbabweans; while we incubate successful investment opportunities both in South Africa and Zimbabwe, and throughout the diaspora, with an economic recovery blueprint.”

Vice President Mnangagwa praised the initiatives of the Zim-SA Forum, saying that while people in Zimbabwe were hard at work to find solutions to the challenges facing Zimbabwe, it was highly encouraging that Zimbabweans in the diaspora had taken it upon themselves to organise outside the country – irrespective of their different political persuasions.

“We may have differences in our political persuasion,” the Vice President said, “…but in terms of the economy I’m sure that everyone agrees that we are committed to economic development, united as country.”

It was encouraging to hear the Vice President speak about the diversity of the opportunities in agriculture and especially grain production, the basics of command agriculture, and how the diaspora can mobilise to invest in all sectors of the business of farming.

The Vice President said he had briefed cabinet in Zimbabwe that the country was prepared to work with the economic blocks that were coming out of the meeting of like-minded Zimbabweans in the diaspora, and there were boundless opportunities in infrastructure development, the railways, in ICT, in the manufacturing industries and in all economic sectors and developmental areas.

As the Zim-SA Forum we are at the forefront of building a multi-purpose platform to engage in dialogue and discuss pertinent sectors of the economy in which we can drive the required vision of the Zimbabwe we all want.

Our vision is to harness the relevant technical expertise that is in the diaspora. Among several examples that the Vice President made on the day was the example of the Agricultural Rural Development Authority which had gone to great strides in ploughing the way forward in developmental agriculture.

The Vice President further spoke of the work that Mr Nyabadza was doing in cross-pollinating ideas between the diaspora and agricultural development in Zimbabwe.

In his own words Mr Nyabadza said “The Zim-SA Forum is running a marathon and we want to be with you in this marathon.” He emphasised the possibility of creating an investment fund by the Zimbabweans in the diaspora to facilitate the development of investments in Zimbabwe and in SADC.

Mr Nyabadza made reference to a German company that has recently invested over $50 million towards farming, and challenged the Zimbabwean diaspora, and especially those in South Africa to follow suit.

The Vice President said that in his previous interaction with the diasporans in South Africa he had spoken to Zimbabweans who were working in important institutions and banks, and other fund managers who were responsible for driving millions in investments throughout Africa.

The opportunities are there in Zimbabwe, it is only for the diasporans to unite and organise themselves, and the government of Zimbabwe is ready to work with those people, and play a pivotal role in economic recovery, while maximising the opportunities available in Zimbabwe.

Central to CZI presentation by Mr Jabangwe was the drive for opportunities in resuscitating the manufacturing industries in Zimbabwe.

An array of opportunities were spoken about, particularly in the infrastructure, road and rail opportunities, in areas of food security, and value addition were highlighted.

Mr Tarinda from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe spoke at length about the financial situation in Zimbabwe and clarified the scepticism around the introduction of bond notes.

The permanent secretary Dr Sibanda sealed the guest speeches by challenging business people and investors to come to Zimbabwe, and tap onto the opportunities that are available.

Central to his remarks was an indication that the country is at cross roads in demanding a proper reflection on a plethora of variables which includes the need to increase its GDP, reduce national deficit, build investment confidence, and increase remittances.

A point in reference that Dr Sibanda made was the description of how the Ethiopian diasporans had contributed to nation building through a number of projects in the country.

Ethiopia had established the Diaspora Engagement Affairs General Directorate in 2002 and today the directorate is celebrated as a key driver of the economic development strategy for Ethiopia and facilitating the activities of the diaspora in Ethiopia.

Its aim is to ensure that diaspora issues are considered in the nation building process. Indeed everyone now knows that Ethiopia is one of the shining examples of how modern Africa can tap into the resources of its diaspora communities..

Central to other speakers of the day were messages on the role of gender with specific reference to women in business by Ms Louisa Samson, and youth collaboration and synergy in doing business by Tommy Deusche.

Mr Mabobo from the Youth Development Agency spoke about the role of the youth in nation building, and the role of data in building business was presented by Mr Dumisani Sibanda.

Mr Godfrey Fungurani provided insights on investment opportunities from the diaspora perspective.

I had the opportunity to provide the vote of thanks as the Secretary General of the Zim-SA forum. Personally I felt that the event was highly informative and encouraging to the diasporas, and in providing confidence and a positive look to the future that we all want.

As I reflect on the forum’s journey this far I look at the past with gratitude, the present with admiration, and future with hope.

I believe the October 29 event was just a glimpse of what Zim-SA Forum can do, and contribute to transform and bring the tomorrow that Zimbabweans all want.

Watch the space, more is on the way. I call upon all business people in the diaspora to join hands and let us move together as a front for the betterment of our future.

Visit our website: www.zimsaforum.org

Dr Shingirirai S Mutanga is Secretary General Zim-SA Forum.

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