By Kingstone Gwatidzo
ZIMBABWE’S DIASPORA is crucial in growing national exports and there is need to harness the regular social contact between diaspora and families back home to increase the presence of Zimbabwean products on the export market..
This is one of the key messages delivered by ZimTrade CEO, Allan Majuru during the Connect to Invest Breakfast Business Forum, held on the sidelines of the US-Africa Business Summit in Botswana recently.
Majuru, urged the diaspora to play a strategic role in growing exports and encouraged Zimbabwean businesses to utilize the diaspora living in strategic markets to grow their exports.
“We consider diaspora as strategic partners in driving Zimbabwe’s exports, some as consumers, others and marketers and distributors.
“As much we see diaspora as families and friends, Zimbabwean businesses must also consider them as an easier route to market, based on familiarity with products back home and the dynamics in the markets they stay,” said Majuru.
An inclusive arrangement towards export growth, that will ride on diaspora, will contribute to the internationalization of Zimbabwe’s economy and local brands.
The Forum, which was held on the last day of the 4-day US-Africa Business Summit brought together Botswana’s private sector and Zimbabwean diaspora from Botswana and the United States of America sought to share trade and investment opportunities in Zimbabwe with investors from Botswana and the diaspora community.
The forum also provided a platform to discuss best approaches to deepen linkages for economic development.
Here, participants shared ideas on how they can work to participate in the economic value chains and promote economic development and investment into Zimbabwe with the goal to further the strides of exports and increase Zimbabwe’s footprint in the global market.
There are several ways in which the diaspora can stimulate economic development in their countries of origin, which include facilitation of inward foreign direct investment and trade relationships.
Members of the diaspora can become marketing agencies for domestic companies, and this is a powerful conduit through which they can continuously help development of local businesses.
Facilitating transfer of technology, skills and knowledge, temporary assignments of skilled expatriates in origin countries, and the return of emigrants with enhanced skills and new knowledge can also contribute to the economic development of country of origin, and in turn export capacity.
Zimbabweans living in Botswana and other countries can take on various roles in the development of export markets for their homeland which include leader/reputation builder, middleman, or enforcer of national brands.
It is easy for Zimbabwe’s diaspora to assume these roles given the existing social ties with businesses and families back home, where they can become brand champions of the country and local products.
Zimbabwean nationals in other countries, particularly in Botswana and USA, can help challenge global narrative regarding Zimbabwe that is dominated by discussions of economic decline.
As brand ambassadors, Zimbabwean diaspora can help sale Zimbabwe as a source of quality products.
Already, the diaspora is playing some role of increasing awareness of local products on international markets albeit the small scale of that action.
For example, people travelling overseas are often asked by relatives and friends to carry along national brands such as Mazoe and Tanganda Tea.
What is now required is to upscale the activity and to formalize some of the operations so that they contribute meaningfully to development of national exports.
Local companies must court the diaspora as potential business partners who can source buyers in foreign markets, as well as conduct much needed research to ascertain market requirements and penetration strategies.
Not only will this assure local enterprises of easy access to markets but will also provide local businesses with real-time market information which is critical in dealing with competition.
Forging business partnerships between local businesses and the diaspora should be easy given existing relations tied on nationhood.