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Sunday, 13 March 2011

The Case for An Effective Diaspora Policy (Guest Blog)

According to the latest World Bank’s Migration and Remittances Fact Book (2011), remittance flow worldwide were estimated to reach US$440 billion by the end of 2010, up from US$416 in 2009. About 75% of these funds or US$325 billion will and goes to developing countries, up from US$307 Billion in 2009.

Zambia in 2009, received an estimated US$68 million in remittances from those living in Diaspora through formal channels. What this entails is that there more funds that come through informal channels that are not captured on record. With well structured system that offers incentives for investments, Zambians living in Diaspora can become a giant investor in realizing our Zambia’s development agenda.

In the recent past, the line has been drawn and clearly acknowledged that Zambians living in Diaspora can contribute immensely to the development of our country given a well structured advocacy strategy that demands that government tap into the capital of the huge Zambian Diaspora population worldwide by offering them incentives to invest back home.

There is no doubt many Zambians in the Diaspora would like to invest back home, if anything over 70% would like at some time to return home and settle. This as maybe the case, there are NO clear policies by our government that help the integration of our fellow countrymen and women back into our society.

The challenges faced by the Zambians in Diaspora in regard to investing home ranges from, dual citizenship to right to vote, lack of land ownership to lack of business incentives, cultural shock to legal and political hitches etc. With these multi-faceted challenges there is a need for the government to go the extra mile in helping our brothers and sister address these critical matters of life that could change Zambia for the better.

It is also possible to have a Diaspora think tank. Realizing the immerse skills as obtained by the Zambians living in Diaspora it is imperative that ideas born from them should finds there way to government for consideration and implementation. This program should ensure that every year policies or development documents or papers are submitted to the government. Most of these documents should be done in consultation with the government now that they have a Diaspora Liaison Office at the Office of the President. How neutral the Diaspora office at State House is, I will leave that for you to think find out.

We all know that the changes that take place every day in Zambia can have a negative impact on those visiting, especially those that have not been home for a long time. Many people find themselves lost when they get back to Zambia coupled with stigmatization and over expectance from the public, family members, friends and the community, this leads to shocks and being lost in your own country. There is need for these people to be orientated when they come or before they travel by providing sufficient information.

The other biggest challenge is that of legal documentation considering the time they have to spend here and the processes of documentation in our county. It is important that government formulates a way to help them access legal documentation in the shortest period of time. These legal documentations could range from National Registration Cards to passports, drivers license to resident/work permit for spouses including company registration.

Why can’t Zambians have dual citizenship? This component has received massive support from different stakeholders and is being considered in the new draft constitution; however, there is need for advocacy and strong voices to build a well structure campaign around this theme. This should not be a privilege but a right for those living in Diaspora

The government should also offer business incentives for Zambians in the Diaspora willing to invest back home. This is one of the biggest challenges that need to be faced boldly. Government should ensure that they are incentives that promote investment for citizens in their own country and make sure that Zambians living in Diaspora can easily access and own land. The Business incentive could include tax exemption i.e. on machinery for those setting up industries. This in partnership with other institutions will be one of the forces to building a better Zambia

Daimone Siulapwa
(Guest Author)

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