MORE than one million Zimbabweans who had left the country returned to settle home permanently during the first half of 2023.
This marks a significant surge in returnees, driven mainly by Government’s efforts to attract skilled locals back home.
Statistics from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) show that 1,03 million Zimbabweans “who had declared themselves as emigrants when they left the country” had returned home between January and June.
In total, about 378 000 locals relocated back to Zimbabwe during the first three months of the year, while the number of returnees surged to 655 377 between April and June.
ZimStat classifies returning expatriates as “returning former residents who had declared themselves as emigrants when leaving the country but, nevertheless, remained away for more than one year”.
“There were 331 982 visitors from abroad who came to Zimbabwe during the second quarter of 2023, compared to 231 107 in the second quarter of 2022, representing an increase of 43,6 percent,” said the ZimStat’s Quarterly International Migration Statistics report.
“There were 655 377 residents returning from abroad, compared to 250 147 in the second quarter of 2022.
“This indicates an increase of almost 162 percent.”
While ZimStat’s 2022 national census concluded that only 908 914 Zimbabweans were living abroad, South Africa’s national statistics agency, Statistics South Africa, estimated that there were about one million Zimbabweans living in the neighbouring country last year.
The new ZimStat immigration figures, however, account for Zimbabwean expatriates who did not move to foreign countries on a permanent basis.
The agency’s first-quarter international migration report also indicates that the country recorded 603 412 arrivals during the January-March period this year, and 63,4 percent (about 378 000) were returning residents, while 36,6 percent were visitors from abroad.
Zimbabwe’s economy has been growing steadily in recent years, creating new job and investment opportunities for skilled workers, making relocating home more attractive for Zimbabweans living abroad.
Government has also embarked on a drive to attract skilled Zimbabweans back into the country, including providing tax breaks, subsidies and support for setting up businesses.
Such initiatives have made it more attractive for the Zimbabwean diaspora to return home.
Experts say some are returning to reunite with their loved ones and build strong family bonds.
The second-quarter report also shows that more than 330 000 foreigners visited the country for various purposes, including business, holiday and shopping.
The proportion of visitors who came for holiday was 51,4 percent (about 168 000).
“The number of arriving visitors who came for business purposes increased by 26,2 percent from quarter ending June 2022 to quarter ending June 2023.
“The number increased from 41 286 to 52 103 in the quarters under review.
“Visitors who came to Zimbabwe for educational purposes in the second quarter of 2023 decreased by 172,2 percent from the second quarter of 2022.
“There were 6 382 education visitors in the quarter ending June 2023, compared to 2 345 in the quarter ending June 2022.
“The number of holiday visitors in the second quarter of 2023 increased from a figure of 133 427 in the second quarter of 2022 to 170 474 in quarter ending June 2023, showing an increase of 27,8 percent.”
In addition, there were 5 571 visitors in the quarter ending June 2023, who came for shopping, up from 1 563 visitors recorded in the quarter ending June 2022, representing a 71,9 percent increase.
“During the second quarter of 2023, there were 97 452 in-transit visitors compared to 52 486 during the same quarter in 2022, representing an increase of 85,7 percent,” adds the report.
Department of Immigration spokesperson Mrs Memory Mugwagwa told The Sunday Mail that the number of visitors coming into the country was rising.
“The policies of ZimBho and other tourism promotion activities have also increased the movement of people into the country.
“The fact that Zimbabwe has improved the ease of doing business has also opened up things,” she said.
“The Second Republic’s mantra of Zimbabwe being open for business and the underpinning policy of being a friend to all and enemy to none are yielding positive results.
“Approximately 35 000 people pass through the borders of Zimbabwe every day.”
Mrs Mugwagwa said the department recorded a high number of entries between January and September. Sunday Mail