ZANZIBAR’S House of Representatives has passed a Diaspora Law to enable Tanzanians who reside abroad to contribute in efforts to foster growth and socio-economic development in the Isles.
Before the lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the law entitled ‘The Diaspora Affairs Act of 2020,’ they discussed benefits of Diaspora and urged the government to seriously strengthen the relationship with the Diaspora as one of the drivers of economy and social development.
The government has been moving fast in building stronger relations with Diaspora. It had conducted series of international Diaspora conferences, established Diaspora department in the President’s office, and came up with a policy last year.
According to the new law members of Diaspora shall not participate in political issues including right to join political parties, vote or be voted. They would miss those rights reserved exclusively to resident (Tanzanian –Zanzibari) as Minister may publish from time to time.
A Diaspora forum is now backed by the law which state there shall be a Diaspora forum whose members shall be appointed by the minister who will be the chairperson of the forum. The functions of the forum provide advise on policy matters, ensure success preparation of Diaspora conference.’
Other functions of the forum include organise and motivate economic, cultural, educational, scientific and sport cooperation with the Diaspora; and advice conditions favourable for investment programs and projects organised by Diaspora.
Also there shall be Diaspora conference to be conducted as seems to be necessary, and that Diaspora shall consist of registered and non registered Diaspora and other stakeholders to discuss Diaspora matters.
As regards offences, the law says ‘It shall be an offence for any person to misuse and contravene the privilege provided under the act, for example a person who solicits, incites, abet or induce a Diaspora to commit an offence, commit an offence and upon conviction shall be liable to a fine of not less than one million (1m/-) or imprisonment for a term not less than one year or both.
Prior legislature approval of the law, Mr Issa Haji Ussi- Minister of State, President’s Office and chairman of the Revolutionary council Zanzibar said the Diaspora Affairs Act provides for matters relating to Diaspora including the recognition of their status and privileges.
The law also explains the functions of the Office of the Diaspora Affairs as to establish, register and maintain the records of Diaspora; facilitate in financial, social security, land and investment matters and trade and tourism; and facilitate receiving of Diaspora philanthropic resources and services.
To collaborate with Diaspora associations and other international organizations; Ensure that Diaspora issues are incorporated in the sectoral policies and programs; Promote conditions that will enable Diaspora to learn and preserve Kiswahili language and culture are other functions of the ‘Diaspora affairs office.
Other task of the office include to provide access to current information to Diaspora through government media and official websites; Strengthen social and economic links with Diaspora in the area of science and development of new technology; and develop standards of performance to be observed and achieved by the Diaspora.
Ussi says the Diaspora policy which was launched last year include a vision to have a Diaspora community that is patriotic and ready to contribute towards the socio-economic development of Zanzibar, while the mission is to identify, engage and involve the Zanzibar Diaspora into a unified group for effective support on the development of Zanzibar.
The Minister says there are numerous opportunities (include financial support Diaspora to their families, Investments, knowledge, skills and technology transfer) which if well utilised can significantly spearhead the development of Zanzibar.
“Both the policy and the law are in place to create enabling environment for engaging the Diaspora in development initiatives. We ask stakeholders, including the government and its agencies, private sector and development partners to ensure proper implementation of the laws,” Mr Ussi said.
He said “Effective coordination is crucial for policy and law implementation and prerequisite for the enhancement of monitoring and evaluation,” the Minister said as he urges the media to help build awareness on the contribution of Zanzibari’s in the Diaspora while diplomatic mission’s role is to act as link between Diaspora and their country of origin.
Mr Salum Maulid Salum, Principal Secretary (PS), President’s office, is asking members of the Diaspora to take seriously the opportunities provided by the government and further network among them, including promoting and strengthening ‘Private Public Partnership (PPP).’
Ms Adila Hilali, head of the Diaspora department says forums and conferences help to stimulate a great deal of interest and make Diasporas learn about the economic prospects of the united republic of Tanzania (Zanzibar and Tanzania mainland).
Several Diaspora conferences had been organised with different themes, but the theme “Patriotism for development, Home is a shield” trended for long because of it had an important message to the Diasporas.
The 2015 Migration report of the united republic of Tanzania estimated that Tanzania Diaspora were 421,456 Tanzanians, but the current estimate is between 500,000 and a million Tanzanians livening abroad, as some of them repeatedly raise the issue of having dual citizenship and the right to take part in politics and vote during general elections.
With reference to dictionaries Diaspora is linked to Greek word and Jews movement, while the Cambridge English Dictionary defines it as the spreading of people from one original country to other coun tries. Many developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia seem to re-define or have a wider view on Diaspora as ‘untapped important driver of social and economical development.’
The countries had for in the past under-looked the powers of their citizens living abroad over economy. Embracing the fresh views on ‘Diaspora,’ almost every country has been eyeing the growing Diaspora abroad as a source of foreign exchange that can help get individual and the country move a step forward.
Awakened by the growing African Diaspora, Regional Co-operations like the SADC, EAC, and AU have put into consideration the role their citizens abroad have been playing in social and economical development.
Most of the Tanzania Diaspora lives in European and Scandinavian countries, UK, Canada, US, Denmark, Oman, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Austria, Switzerland, and in many African countries like South Africa.
The Diasporas are already supporting the country’s development. So far they have been contributing by providing teachers/lecturers, equipment, finance (money remittance), construction of schools buildings and health facilities.
Ms Hafsa Hassan Bamba, one of the members of Diaspora says “I believe that each of the Tanzania- Zanzibar Diaspora is interested in taking part in social and economic development of the country. Let the government strengthen the relation particularly in having a friendly atmosphere.”
The African Diaspora, since the mid-1990s have built a history of financial remittances to friends and relatives’ which has often served as a reliable source of stable income and lifeline for many of Africa’s poor.
Financial remittances from the African Diaspora are fast and reach the poor directly; making it an effective means of relief and rehabilitation and provide benefits to many people at the base of the African social class.
Some researchers argue that African migrants are now part of a large-scale, worldwide Diaspora or trans-national community becoming one of the major global forces shaping the direction and trends in the twenty-first century.
They estimate African Diaspora at more than eleven million who have often influenced western and eastern government policy-makers in their strategies and activities implemented towards Africa.
Researchers say that financial remittances by African Diaspora to their continent of origin, has contributed tangibly towards poverty alleviation, economic development, savings, mobilization, productive investments and emergency aid.
The African remittance flows to and within the continent reach $40 billion per year, and the 30 million strong African Diaspora fuels the continents’ budget to the tune of five percent of its total GDP. The World Bank’s latest brief shows that East African countries received $17.38 billion from their citizens living abroad between 2013 and 2018.
According to the bank, Kenya topped the region as the biggest beneficiary of remittances, receiving $10.74 billion, followed by Uganda ($6.28 billion), South Sudan ($2.85 billion), Tanzania ($2.39 billion), Rwanda ($1.13 billion) and Burundi ($257 million).
However, the Diaspora remittances to Africa are expected take a huge knock as coronavirus lock-downs globally put the brakes on economic activity and the ability for expats to send money home.