Diaspora by the numbers: Zimbabweans abroad are sending home 9-times more money than FDI

Remittances help keep Zim afloat, but global pressures may hit incomes (pic: Reuters)

Zimbabweans abroad sent home US$1.66 billion dollars in 2022, which was 16% more than they did in the previous year.

According to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, total international remittances amounted to US$2.80 billion. This figure includes money coming in through donor agencies. Of this amount, the Zimbabwean Diaspora sent in US$1.66 billion, up from US$1.43 billion in 2021.

Diaspora remittances account for 16% of the foreign currency coming into Zimbabwe, more than foreign investors who brought in US$185 million, making up just 1% of forex earnings. Exports are the biggest forex earner, accounting for 65% of the country’s forex receipts.

Of the total diaspora remittances, 40% come from South Africa followed by the United Kingdom (25%).

In June last year, WorldRemit, a widely used remittance platform, said it had transferred £170 million to Zimbabwe between January and May. This placed Zimbabwe among WorldRemit’s top three markets in Africa, at par with Kenya in second place, behind Nigeria.

How many Zimbabweans are abroad?

Figures on the size of Zimbabwe’s Diaspora vary wildly. In Zimbabwe, Zimstat estimates the number of people abroad by finding out the number of households that have relatives outside the country.

In 2022, the census report estimated the number of Zimbabweans abroad at 908,913 people. South Africa’s 2016 census estimated that there were 574,047 Zimbabweans in that country. In total, South Africa had 3.95 million foreigners, including the undocumented.

Zimstat estimates that there are 23,166 Zimbabweans in the UK. The number is likely conservative, given the census’ method; RBZ’s remittance figure would suggest that each Zimbabwean in the UK sends home an unlikely average of US$1,300 per month.

According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, there were 122,000 Zimbabwean-born people living in Britain in 2021, making Zimbabweans the 22nd largest foreign group there. The UK estimate would also suggest that Zimbabweans there each send home an average of nearly US$250 per month.

The country is currently seeing an accelerated migration due to the economic crisis. This shows in UK data. Zimbabwe is in the top five of skilled visas to UK, beating countries with some of the biggest populations on earth. These visas to Zimbabweans were up 424% between 2020 and 2022, the biggest increase of all countries.  

What are remittances used for mostly?

According to researchers Beacon Mbiba and Daisy Mupfumira: “The major purposes for these remittances were largely to address health and care issues (19.23 %), school fees and education related support (19.23 %), funerals (15.38 %) and food and clothing (15.38 %).”

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