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Are Africans in the Diaspora short-sighted?

February 16, 2015
The Patriot

OF LATE, some Zimbabweans who are now resident (or citizens) in the UK, have been disposing their properties in Zimbabwe to pay deposits for mortgages in the UK.
Those doing so see it as wise investment, while others believe they will never go back to live in Zimbabwe.
“Buy a stand in Zimbabwe and develop it. Build a house or a cottage and then sell it. Invest the money in a property here,” one of my friends, who thinks I am missing on an ‘opportunity’, advised me a few weeks ago.
She sold her three stands in Zimbabwe last year, which she had acquired between 2002 and 2008.
Back then she bought them very cheap when she took advantage of the inflation and the weak Zimbabwean dollar at the time.
She sold the stands for about $45 000, and used the money as deposit for a two bed flat she is buying in Sheffield on a mortgage.
She is not the only one.
An Asian-Zimbabwean friend told me that he sold his five houses in Zimbabwe recently and put the money in a UK Bank for investment.
He said he doesn’t see any hope in Zimbabwe; he wouldn’t be returning to live there any time soon.
But what is intriguing is that many rich white people, millionaires and billionaires in Europe and the USA, and international institutions, are buying land in Africa, according to a report published by the Oakland Institute in 2011.
The report, which states that most of the land ‘grabbing’ deals are taking place in Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Mali and Mozambique, says some of the rich white people acquiring land in Africa are doing so through dubious means, including bribing poor tribal chiefs with bottles of Johnnie Walker (whisky).
It sounds more like the slavery days, when Africans were traded with the slave traders in return for mirrors, sugar and tobacco.
“When these investors promise progress and jobs to local chiefs it sounds great, but they don’t deliver,” the executive director of Oakland Institute, Anuradha Mittal, said in the report.
“No-one should believe that these investors are there to feed starving Africans.”
Alluding to the land grabbing in Africa, the BBC (June 8 2011) wrote that in 2009 alone, the white investors or foreign speculators had, “bought or leased nearly 60m hectares of land in Africa — an area the size of France”.
The Guardian newspaper (June 8 2011) commented that: “Harvard and other major American universities are working through British hedge funds and European financial speculators to buy or lease vast areas of African farmland in deals, some of which may force many thousands of people off their land.”
So what are rich white people seeing in Africa, which we, black people, are not seeing?
My two friends are not convinced that their future is in Zimbabwe.
They are not the only ones who have made the decision to live in the Diaspora permanently.
This is the decision now shared by many people.
However, is it wise to sell land and houses in Zimbabwe to raise money to pay deposits for houses in the Diaspora, UK especially, where the housing market has not been stable for quite some time?
A Zimbabwean family in Croydon sold their house in Mabelreign in 2008 for an equivalent of £25 000.
They used the £25 000 as deposit for a three bedroom terraced house (which was going for £200 000 then).
The value of their house has fallen.
They may never afford to buy another house in Mabelreign again, even if they sell their house in the UK.
A Jamaican poet and reggae artiste, Paul Henry (Ras Ichy), thinks that Africans who are selling their properties in Africa to invest in the UK, are getting it wrong and they are short-sighted.
“You can’t give up a continent for an island, where is the logic?” he said over the phone when I asked his opinion.
“A continent is firm, an island is vulnerable.
“Africans who are getting lost in the West will be foreigners in Africa in the future.
“Africa has the key to the future and these white people know it.”
However, Netsai, a friend of mine who returned to Zimbabwe in December last year as a returning resident, says many people in the UK are missing opportunities in Zimbabwe.
She came to the UK in 1998, and got married to a white English man.
She had a good job in London, but gave all that up and decided to return to Zimbabwe.
“How does your (white) husband feel about your returning to Zimbabwe?” I asked her over the phone.
“Is he Zimbabwean? He is British. I am the one who is a Zimbabwean,” she said.
“It’s me returning to Zimbabwe, not him. He is living in his country. I am going back to my country. Simple.
“He can visit me here (Zimbabwe) if he wants to. I will be coming to the UK more often.
“My children are there. I want to be in Zimbabwe. I want to grow old and die in Zimbabwe.
“I want to be buried near where my parents are buried.
“You will also feel the same when all your children are grown up.
“They will leave you. You will be lonely and miserable. Your bones will be aching with arthritis and there will be no one to help you here, so prepare to come back home at some point” she advised me.
She bought a plot in Chegutu a few years ago.
She sent me photographs of her plot in Chegutu, her house in Mount Pleasant, and of the poultry project she is running in Chegutu.
Since she returned in December she bought 350 road-runners although she says she wants to increase the number to 800.
She is also doing market gardening and says she doesn’t regret going back to Zimbabwe.
I asked her if she was not bothered by the infrastructure, the electricity and water which are erratic, and the potholes that many people are posting on social media.
She laughed.
“Zvinhu zvirikunaka kuZimbabwe imi muchingosaririra,” she said.
“Mapotholes amuri kuona pafacebook newhatsapp ndeemumacouncil-run towns, not mastate roads.
“The state roads, those that link towns, are super.
“Munyorododo chaiwo. The road from Harare to Bulawayo is now a dual. You drive from Harare to Mutare, Harare to Bulawayo, Harare to whichever town, uri pamunyorododo weroad.
“Mapotholes unotozoaona wapinda mumatawundi sanaKadoma nanaChegutu, which are run by the councils.
“The councils are the ones letting down the country.
“Kana iri mvura, where I live we have running water every day. “Yakangovharwa for three days when they were fixing the pipes.
“Since then things are okay. Don’t read too much into negative media my dear.
“You are missing on opportunities.”
Another Zimbabwean who lived in the UK for more than 10 years, Marian Kirk, also decided to pack it up and returned to Zimbabwe last year in April. She is running a day centre, Mother Kirk Smart Kids in Avondale.
She too, said she is happy in Zimbabwe and she does not regret making the bold move to go back to Zimbabwe.
What is surprising is that while white people are acquiring land in Africa, including through dubious means, some Africans are risking their lives by coming to Europe through illegal routes including dangerous seas.
We are giving up on Africa when others, especially whites, are seeing opportunities in Africa.
What’s going on?