Updated: Apr 25, 2019
By now it’s clear to most Zimbabweans that we are
on our own. Our politicians are corrupt, they don’t care about the nation or us, but the question is what are we as sixteen million people (3mil diasporians and 13mil home based citizens) doing to change that reality?
Why do sixteen million people remain beholden to only three hundred or so indifferent politicians, a few business cartels and a broke government, without appreciating the power in our numbers?
What are we doing to harness the power to be at the bargaining table with government or big business and to change the economic trajectory of the nation with the additional power that we have in our pockets? Nothing!
All the same, we as the diaspora continue to send US$1bil-3bil informal and formal remittences every year into Zimbabwe for our relatives to consume fruitlessly, feeding the corruption and the cartels that exploit us.
Every year we release from our control into the hands of cartels and retailers our true power -the collective contributions we remit to the Zimbabwean economy- without leveraging them.
In essence, since 2000, as the Zimbabwean diaspora we remitted in excess of $30bil in cash. A potential $40bil when compound at a cumulative 5% interest rate per annum that flowed to build the cartel, enabling it to profiteer, morphing it into a monopoly that corrupts our institutions and externalizes our wealth.
This is before we calculate the cellphones, clothes, food, sneakers, TVs and cars that we sent home. Cannibalizing our fledgling industry without creating wealth, production capacity or capital accumulation.
Do you see that huge opportunity cost, the aggregate power, development potential and capital muscle that we lost just by fragmented, non-strategic consumption?
That’s the kind of economic muscle that makes men control nations, business control resources and governments.
The kind of muscle that gets you invited to the negotiating table with governments across the globe. Real muscle, but we lost it because we didn’t use it to gain power. We let it burn while giving our relatives fish instead of a rod.
That’s power, investment, capital, wealth and a strong negotiating voice (remember money talks) lost down the drain of consumption.
It was the biggest form of investment that went into the country over the past 20yrs under sanctions, however it was not leveraged.
And what’s sad is we [black Zimbabweans], the unrecognized investors of Zimbabwe, the ones suffering under cartels and corruption. Were the investors that injected the biggest investment into Zimbabwe over the last 20yrs but we have nothing to show but a tattered nation.
Going into the future, we need to start collecting those remittences, organizing and using them as our economic muscle, and capital to:
• leverage and lobby gvt to give us the right policies in exchange for our investment
• use it as our pool of capital to buy Zimbabwe while its still cheap. So that we can be the biggest shareholders in Zimbabwe’s institutions, companies and resources
• be keys to control strategic sectors of the economy
• invest in solving our problems (food shortages, unemployment, lack of energy, lack of machinery, low agricultural output, capital deficiencies, processing and farming) instead of giving it away to consumption and thereby remaining a stagnant nation.
Strive Masiyiwa has the government eating out of the palm of his hand because of the power of the bondnote and RTGS contributions he makes regularly to national projects.
He has a rural entrepreneurship fund built out of the collection of our banking deposits, $5 airtime and share purchases.
BUT we the buyers of the majority of that airtime, shares and deposits, endowed with +$1bil-3bil US year on year. Can’t seem to use that might to raise ourselves from obscurity into serious players in the market.
Why can’t we use our collective power, which is way greater than what Econet has at its disposal, to exploit latent opportunities like the Lupane gas deposits, Mzarabani oil or the biggest coal deposits in Africa that lie in Gwai.
Why can’t we use our US$3bil/yr propensity to buy into Telecel, TelOne, CSC, ZESA or Diaryboard. Particularly when we consider that our remittences when spent in the economy by our family members build the fuel and grocery cartels that exploit the nation.
How then do we remain victims to them when we control the financial muscle that capitalizes them to exploit us?
Moreover, how do those dreamers who talk about fighting corruption expect to fight without power or economic scale to negotiate, persuade or change the economy?
Why can’t we collect this huge yearly US dollar cash contribution (the gold in our hands) and turn it into a collective bargaining muscle, economic leverage and a wealth creation endowment for our selves, our families and the nation? Instead of waiting for foreigners or a few local capitalists to be our salvation in exchange for them exploiting us and taking over our inheritance.
Why don’t we see Zimbabwe for what it is: an opportunity to make money and gain relevance? A nation with a government that is so desperate for investment that it will listen and bend over backwards to investor demands?
With $1bil-3bil in hard cash (paper money) available as a recurring contribution into the Zimbabwean economy yearly. We can organize and collect our paper endowment to become that home biased investor with the demands that our government must bend over backwards to meet.
We can take our collective contributions to make us the biggest owners of Zimbabwe’s resources, which in turn will convert our paper money into real ownership of wealth.
We can become the cash flush collective to invest in building factories, refurbishing old ones, buying machinery from all across the world to re-machine and re-tool our industry using our foreign passports to bust the sanction restrictions.
Becoming the marketing conduits for the new products produced in these factories to penetrate new markets in Africa and the diasporas we reside using our foreign passports.
With such tremendous power we can change the landscape and structure of the Zimbabwean economy by simply combining our financial contributions, using our exposure, connections, skills and minds.
This is the true power that Zimbabweans [and Africans] have, communalism. Something we can make a reality now, if we stop playing the victim and we come together.
We have the power in our pockets to destroy these cartels and build Zimbabwe’s private sector, civil society and institutions up again to be capable of fighting corruption.
All those $100 bills we spend on shoes, cellphones, alcohol and enriching western companies, are Zimbabwean economic muscle that can change our reality.
Zimbabweans by virtue of being in the diaspora in large numbers and earning hard currency are the nation’s biggest dormant asset. An economic power house when aggregated because the diaspora has SCALE of numbers and weight of individual contributions. Which can be used to generate huge capital in hard currency, BUT we lose that power once we use it individually and without strategy.
Individualism weakens us and keeps us subject to cartels, a broke government and parasitic politicians. Individualism enables our consumption to be the fodder for cartels to weaken the state and its institutions, grooming corrupt politicians into powerful warlords.
However, as illustrated above, we are more powerful than 300 politicians and the cartels reigning terror on our people because we are their capital base. Let’s take back our power and use it to our advantage as was done in Norway.
In the last 18yrs we literally threw away the power of our over $30bil that we tossed into Zimbabwe. Money that could have made us the most influential and wealthiest investors in the country.
If we had invested right, our families would have had enough return coming from these investments to not only survive but build their net-worth.
Albeit, as usual, we black people never fully appreciate the benefits of unity in numbers, forward thinking and investment because we have tunnel vision emanating from wanting to be number one alone. In that we lose the opportunity to build wealth with the leverage of other people’s contributions.
My fellow countrymen, let’s not lose another $30bil in the next 15yrs but let’s use our collective financial muscle to unite, gain power, bust sanctions and build our nation.
As the Zimbabwean diaspora if we unite and act collectively we can have more financial muscle than our government. We can then use that muscle to attract those at home to invest together with additional foreign investment from the African diaspora encouraged by the success that will emanate from African collectiveness.
Giving us a tremendous bargaining power and leverage to negotiate with government and buy key assets in the country before Loshe Ncube sells everything to the west.
Hypothetically we can even choose to pay white farmers instead of government taking a loan, and in exchange we get title to control the land that had those so called developments.
Then when those same farmers want to invest in those farms again, they will be investing as junior partners in projects which we control.
Just for the record, I don’t really support compensating settler farmers but I’m trying to illustrate that with collective capital, the impossible becomes possible. The slave becomes the master.
On the question of skills and skills development. With the kind of endowment Zimbabweans collectively contribute to Zimbabwe every year. We can actually set up businesses and employ skills from all across the world to assist us into the middle income economy we are aspiring to be.
While at it, we could buy all potentially viable parastatals in the country, then import skills from Singapore, Dubai or Japan to turn them around and make them profitable. In the process transferring skills to Zimbabweans all on the financial muscle that comes from communalism.
As the endowment grows we can spend more on research and development to start innovating or we can decide to buy assets else where on the continent in South Africa, Nigeria or Botswana as capital knows no boundaries in Africa.
I haven’t even touched on how we can also leverage that capital by huge multiples if we create derivatives and sophisticated financial instruments for it.
Our parents selling their tobacco to politically aligned middlemen would be a thing of the past because our endowment can buy the whole product at equitable market prices and then take the product direct to market, cutting out the middlemen for fair value.
If need be our endowment can be used to litigate against undesirable practices as we have seen foreign capital doing.
The possibilities for people with cash are endless because money is power. It can buy policy shift, behavior correction, legal precedence and favorable engagement with the highest office. The power of money is the only counter to political bureaucracy and corruption, hence we have to build our capacity.
Rutendo Bereza Matinyarare