There is anecdotal evidence that shows that a lot of Zimbabweans have left the country for greener pastures in other countries following decades of economic hardships. That evidence also seems to suggest that most Zimbabweans live and work in South Africa. The latest data from ZIMSTAT’s census confirms these suspicions. According to the government statistics agency about 1 million Zimbabweans live in the diaspora and of these 85% are living in South Africa.

Exactly 908 913 people are living in the diaspora according to ZIMSTAT and there are distributed as follows:

Country of ResidenceMale PopulationFemale PopulationTotal
South Africa461 293 311 953773 246
Botswana28 68019 24847 928
Malawi6134671 080
Mozambique5 9113 5669 477
Namibia3 4962 1645 660
Zambia3 2661 8105 076
United Kingdom10 57312 59323 166
United States of America4 3694 1968 565
Canada1 6891 7313 420
China1 1519162 067
Australia3 2253 2486 473
Other African Countries4 2391 9686 207
Other European Countries4 1464 6088 754
Other American Countries242203445
Asian3 8573 1086 965
Other Countries161834
Not Stated232118350
Total536 998371 915908 913
Zimbabweans living in the diaspora

There were other interesting bits from this data too:

  • Masvingo and Matabeleland South lead in terms the relative number of people who have left the country for greener pastures. This means that more people in these areas have relatives and family in the diaspora than any other province.
  • 84% of the people who left the country and are living in the diaspora did so because they were looking for jobs.
  • The next biggest reason for leaving was family (8.5%) probably because those who left for employment asked their families to join them
  • About 28% of those who left Zimbabwe are between the ages of 20-24
  • There was a sharp increase in the number of people leaving Zimbabwe around the years leading up to 2 000 as professionals like nurses emigrated to other countries on the brink of Zimbabwe’s economic collapse. This number hs steadly increased over the years and in recent times it has approached 100 000 Zimbabweans leaving Zimbabwe for the diaspora.
  • Service workers including sales and craft related trades lead the number of people who left the country at 58%

Numbers questioned

Estimating the number of people living in the diaspora has always been a controversial and difficult topic. Some have questioned the statistics provided by ZIMSTAT with others saying the numbers are too high while others are saying the numbers are too low. Someone pointed out that according to the government of Australia there were about 34 787 Zimbabweans living in that country. How do we account for the discrepancy? It could e the methodology used in each case was different. Maybe students were not counted etc.

The way we see it, the data by ZIMSTAT still paints a gloomy picture of the country’s economy. Zimbabweans rely heavily on those in the diaspora to make a living with remittances breaching the US$1 billion mark years ago. We might not know exactly how many people live in the diaspora but we sure owe them a lot of gratitude and respect.

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