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Saturday, 4 April 2015

Diaspora Policy Formulation

Editor's note: The following is a recent ministerial statement from Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba on the proposed diaspora policy. There is nothing new in the statement except that Government is allegedly working on such a policy, with propomises of consultations. Previous governments have wasted money on trying to come up with a policy due to lack of cross party ownership. The Banda administration came with the disastrous diaspora desk which apart from achieving very little, except giving officials some foreign trips abroad, quickly sunk under the Sata administration. 
On 17th October, 2014, [the Ministry of Foreign Affairs] launched the Revised Foreign Policy which placed emphasis on economic diplomacy as opposed to political diplomacy. The launch of this document set a tone for Zambians living beyond our borders to participate effectively in the management and shaping of this country’s destiny. It was a call to patriotism, as patriotism knows no political or economic boundaries.

While Zambians living in the Diaspora pursue their own individual dreams, they are reminded of the timeless creed that has held our country together for a long time, the ‘One Zambia, One nation’ motto. It is a creed that means that in this country, we rise or fall as one people.

Zambians living in the Diaspora constantly remind us of the potential that lies within them, and if well harnessed, would contribute effectively to the country’s economic emancipation. Unified as they are, in the Diaspora, they also remind us that we are not as divided as our politics suggest. We are not as cynical as the pundits want us to believe, and that this country is much bigger than the sum of all our individual ambitions put together.

By insisting on the Diaspora Policy, Zambians living beyond our borders are inviting us, leaders, to concentrate on the convergences rather than the divergences, and to put an end to habits that feed political polarisation.

It is in this spirit that the Government of the Republic of Zambia, under the leadership of His Excellency, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu has recognised the potential of the Zambian Diaspora in the development of the country. In this regard, the Government has taken steps towards engaging Zambians in the Diaspora, who have demonstrated great interest in contributing to national development, by investing in the various sectors of the economy.

The Government has made concerted efforts, in partnership with development partners such as the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), to engage and mobilise Zambians in the Diaspora to contribute to the development of the country.

It will be recalled that in April, 2008, the Government invited the Zambian Diaspora to participate in the national consultative meeting, referred to as the indaba, on the impact of the world economic crisis. The meeting recommended the establishment of methodologies for engaging the Diaspora in national development.

Other post-indaba initiatives led to the establishment of the Diaspora Liaison Office in 2009, to facilitate liaison between the Diaspora and appropriate national institutions. It should be noted that this office had a narrow focus of Diaspora engagement in that it was mainly concentrated on land-related matters which were carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection.

Additionally, in June, 2010, the Government, with assistance from the IOM, launched an online survey for Zambians living abroad in an effort to capture their views, aspirations and concerns with regard to participation in national development.

While these efforts sought to address the plight of the Zambian Diaspora, they were not sufficient, in the absence of a policy framework, to offer the Government the mode and terms of engagement with the Zambian Diaspora.

President Edgar Lungu’s Administration recognises that Zambians abroad have the potential to contribute to national development through the sharing of knowledge, skills and experience, as well as the transfer of financial resources through remittances.

In view of the massive untapped potential of the Zambians in the Diaspora, the Government has embarked on the process of formulating the Diaspora Policy Document which will clearly define the terms of engagement and collaboration between the Government and the Zambian Diaspora. All this is being done in the spirit of ensuring that the promises are kept. As the Patriotic Front (PF) Government, we will not promise what we cannot do, but do what we promise.

It should be noted that apart from national efforts, the Government’s inspiration to enhance and formulate a stand-alone Diaspora Policy are as a result of regional efforts at continental level which culminated in the first ever African Union (AU) Global Diaspora Summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa on 25th May, 2012.

The summit mandated member-States to take necessary measures to formulate their respective Diaspora policies with the overall objective of harnessing skills and energies, within the continent and abroad, for the socio-economic development of the African continent. As we make strides in the realisation of the Agenda 2063, as envisaged by the AU, Zambia recognises the importance of consolidating the Diaspora Policy.

Let me to briefly highlight the process that has been undertaken in the formulation of the Diaspora Policy. This august House may wish to note that the PF Government has established a National Steering Committee which comprises key line ministries and institutions whose mandate is to spearhead the formulation of the Diaspora Policy Document.

The committee is, therefore, in the process of undertaking the necessary consultations with all relevant stakeholders, including the ministries of Labour and Social Security, Finance, Justice, Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education, Home Affairs, Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, and Commerce, Trade and Industry.

The overall objective of the policy is to integrate the Zambian Diaspora in the development agenda of the country by creating an enabling environment and platform for effective participation in national development.

The main focus of the policy will be to harness and maximise their efforts as a resource for development by increasing their participation in trade and investment opportunities, enhancing the transfer of financial resources by reducing the high cost of remitting money, facilitating the acquisition of land, protecting the rights and interests of the Diaspora and the establishment of the comprehensive online portal to offer information on the country.

Other interventions will include facilitating their participation in the legislative and political processes, expanding consular services in missions abroad, and addressing challenges such as citizenship.

I wish to emphasise that my ministry, in consultation with the other key stakeholders, will ensure that the policy document is subjected to wide consultation among the various stakeholders key to this process.

The ministry has made efforts to develop a roadmap for the adoption of the Draft Diaspora Policy Document. Key stages will entail learning from other countries, within the region and abroad, with widespread experience in Diaspora Policy formulation. In addition, the ministry is scheduled to hold a national consultative meeting with relevant stakeholders such as Diaspora associations, Parliamentarians, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the IOM and the private sector to solicit for their input in the Diaspora-engagement process.

As I conclude, I wish to reiterate the commitment of the PF Government, under the leadership of His Excellency, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, in ensuring that this policy document is launched by the third quarter of 2015. May I also admit that the potential that lies within and outside our country is extremely huge.

We have to agree to work together with the Diaspora based on the fundamental principle of unity even in diversity. While we pursue our individual dreams, let us always remember that we belong to a collective entity called Zambia, a country which has prevailed over tough times and always emerged stronger.

Like that religious poet, this country knows who the master of the wind is. Yes, this country knows the maker of the rains, and has always quietened the storms that we have gone through as a country. Yes, I know that the sun will keep on shining on mother Zambia

Chola Mukanga
Copyright © Zambian Economist 2015

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