Diaspora could turn Zimbabwe around
By Martin Ganda
Many Zimbabweans are influential globally and could help to unleash the country’s potential. It has been 34 years since Zimbabwe gained political independence.
President Robert Mugabe stressed the importance of reconciliation during his independence address to the nation in 1980, but there is much left to be done.
It is time for Zimbabweans to come together and reach out to their compatriots around the world to implement changes collectively.
The country can avoid self-inflicted problems by closing the persistent gaps it has had since the end of colonisation. Education, resources and politics should be used to achieve this.
The post-1980 education policy created one of the most educated countries in Africa, with an estimated 91% literacy rate. But a protracted exodus of skilled Zimbabweans has depleted the nation of the human capital necessary for economic growth and national development.
These Zimbabweans are not lost to the country; they can be some of the best advocates abroad for its development. They need to complement the efforts of the government.
Stanley Fischer rose from being a simple Bulawayo boy to become the vice-chairperson of the most influential central bank in the world, the United States Federal Reserve. Mthuli Ncube, a prominent economist, entrepreneur and scholar, is in the race for the presidency of the African Development Bank.
An eminent entrepreneur, Strive Masiyiwa, founded Econet, Zimbabwe’s biggest wireless network company, and created a global conglomerate, and James Manyika is a senior partner at a multinational consulting firm McKinsey & Company. He is one of nine people appointed by US President Barack Obama to serve on the president’s Global Development Council.
Each of these individuals, and thousands of other successful Zimbabweans around the globe, has an obligation and an opportunity to use his or her network and influence as an advocate for Zimbabwe.
Those living in Zimbabwe must also play their part. A mature political environment is imperative to mitigate polarisation among the country’s leaders. Zimbabweans cannot continue to blame the past for the country’s woes; they have it in their hands to steer the Zimbabwean economic ship in the right direction and change the future of their country.
The leadership needs to delineate consistent policies and create a globally competitive environment to enable business success.
Zimbabwe is endowed with mineral resources, which should be opened up to global investors through the public market. At present, if an investor or fund manager wants to gain exposure into the platinum sector, for example, they cannot participate directly in the Zimbabwean market.
The only way to participate in the country’s platinum sector is to go through the stock exchange in Johannesburg. If rare resources, such as diamonds and minerals, were held by listed companies on Zimbabwe’s stock exchange, mining investors could gain exposure through that exchange.
The public markets can also be used to facilitate black empowerment. The indigenisation law needs to be clarified so that investors understand it.
The government must explain what 51% local ownership entails and send consistent messages to avoid a backlash from investors, who have been confused by inconsistencies about the policy. Rather than ceding shares to a few individuals, companies could allocate a portion to indigenous communities.
Empowerment laws encouraging majority business ownership by indigenous people is not a new phenomenon or exclusive to Zimbabwe. Addressing past social and economic injustices and ensuring that the local people are beneficiaries of the wealth of the country is a necessary and admirable goal.
Tunisia offers a good guide in how it clearly articulated the rules and expectations of its indigenisation law.
Current and new policies must be unambiguous and the government should provide resources to back the new indigenous business players. This will ensure that new-found wealth not only remains with local entrepreneurs but also trickles down to ordinary Zimbabweans.
Those who live abroad should take every opportunity to advocate their country. Everyone who calls Zimbabwe home has that duty to help the country move forward.
Clear and consistent progressive policies will enable the human capital of all Zimbabweans, both local and abroad, to be tapped and restore the nation to its former glory.
Zimbabwe-born Martin Ganda is an Africa-focused investor and adviser based in New York. Follow him on Twitter @martinganda