Less Than One Million Zimbabweans living abroad: ZimStat

The number of Zimbabweans living outside the country is less than one million, the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency found in the April Census.

The preliminary results on migration, compiled by asking family members if they had close relatives who had left the country, found that there were 908 914. 

This kills the estimates that millions of Zimbabweans have fled. The initial high estimate came 20 years ago when the 2002 census found the population smaller than estimates had predicted. 

Although the same Census showed that this was due to falling birth rates, common in most countries as women go to school and primary health coverage improves, some jumped to the conclusion that the “missing millions” had “fled” Zimbabwe.

The Census this year also looked at internal migration, and no surprisingly found Harare had the largest number of people moving in, while of the more rural provinces Manicaland had the largest number moving out. 

The basic continued rural-to-urban migration had already been seen in the population count, with the urban share of the population continuing to rise, but the census now details just where most of the inter-provincial movements come from, and where they end up.

The 2022 Population and Housing Census collected data on internal and international migration.

It solicited four types of internal migration information: place of birth, place of usual residence, place of residence in August 2012 and place of previous residence in the last 12 months. The questions provided information on three elements of internal migration, how many had moved since they were born, how many since the last census, and how many in the last year.

Presenting the statistics in Harare yesterday, ZimStat director-general Mr Taguma Mahonde said they also collected data on international migration, that is, the movement of people from Zimbabwe to other countries. Mr Mahonde said the Census focused on the emigration component of international migration and collected data on households with emigrants, number of emigrants, emigrants by year of departure, emigrants by country of residence, highest level of education and reasons for emigration.

On the distribution of lifetime migrant inflows and outflows by province, Mr Mahonde said Harare province had the highest number of lifetime in-migrants of 1 037 907, that is more than one million Harare residents were born outside the province, while Manicaland had the largest number of lifetime out-migrants of 586 930, that is the number of people born in Manicaland now living in another province.

“Five provinces including Harare and Bulawayo were net gainers while the other five provinces including Manicaland and Masvingo experienced net loss of migrants. Harare gained 26,2 percent male and 28,5 percent female while Masvingo had a loss of -15,2 percent male and -14,4 percent female.

“Between 2012 and 2022, Harare province had the greatest number of both in-migrants which amounted to 351 569 and 317 599 out-migrants. Compared to other provinces other than Harare, Manicaland had the largest number of out-migrants which totalled 276 588.”

Mr Mahonde said Mashonaland East was the greatest net gainer of migrants on inter-censal net migration rates by province with 11,7 percent males and 11,6 percent females while Manicaland province experienced a net loss of -10,1 percent males and -9,1 percent females.

He said Matabeleland North gained more males with 1,7 percent, but experienced a loss in females with -0,01 percent.

“In the last 12 months, Harare and Bulawayo provinces had greater out-migration flows than in-migration flows. The other remaining provinces save for Matabeleland South, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central generally recorded greater in-migration flows than out-migration.

“Mashonaland East province was the greatest net gainer with 0,9 percent males and one percent female while Bulawayo and Masvingo had net losses of -0,8 percent male and -0,9 percent female. On the distribution of households with emigrants by province, there were 520 240 which is 13,6 percent migrant households out of 3 818 992 households. Mat South had 32,6 percent, Mat North 24,2 percent, Masvingo 22,7 percent and Bulawayo 21,7 percent among other provinces,” Mr Mahonde said.

Turning to the international migration, he said out of a total of 908 914 emigrants, 84 percent of the emigrants were between 15 and 39 years of age of which males were dominant across all age groups, save for the 65 years and above.

“In all provinces, male emigrants were more than female emigrants. Masvingo had 104 716 males and 48,668 females while Mat South had 81 656 males and 61 656 females with Mash Central having 12 648 males and 10 402 females.

“There was a general rise in the number of emigrants, both males and females, since 1980. The highest numbers of emigrants were reported between 2020 to 2021. South Africa was the major country of residence for emigrants with 85 percent, Botswana 5 percent and United Kingdom three percent,” Mr Mahonde said.

Dr William Muhwava from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said migration stories had been written by others and it was time for Zimbabwe to tell its own story.

“Unfortunately, our perspective on migration has been shaped by what we see on television and possibly reading newspapers, I am not castigating the media but they have shaped the narrative in a way which lacks science and data.

“It is quite crucial that ZimStat has started providing this data because if you ask anybody about migration they will tell you about people going under the fence into South Africa, that is what they film on television but is that an accurate narrative?”

Dr Kudzaishe Mangombe, a statistician from the University of Zimbabwe said the unveiling of the migration figures was the first kind of census which managed to dispel the number of emigrants who were outside Zimbabwe.

“We have sources which were saying the number be estimated and the number of people living outside the country is estimated to be between 4 and 7 million so the 2022 census is a ground breaking census, from the previous census we never captured it and many sources were coming from different angles.”


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