If you ask Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister or his colleagues in government if there is an economic crisis in Zimbabwe he will probably say no-he has been saying no for the past couple of years. The evidence on the ground, however, suggests otherwise. Not only are we living with triple-digit inflation with one of the worst inflation rates in the world we have also had to be content with the efforts of lacklustre rain seasons. Most ominously though, the government and private companies have struggled to pay a fair wage to workers. The result has been a massive brain drain as workers flee in droves to other countries in search of greener pastures.
It is often hard to gauge how much Zimbabwe is losing in terms of skilled workers this way as the government has a habit of not publicising statistics that make them look bad especially if they are not the type of statistic that is considered essential. We do however have various points of reference. One area that has been particularly hit has been the health sector with nurses in high demand in countries like Botswana and the United Kingdom. At most government hospitals like Harare Central Hospital (also known as Gomo) nurses are often in short supply with a lot of them leaving for the UK.
On the UK side of things, there is evidence that shows that Zimbabweans have been entering the UK at a higher rate over the past couple of years. Data for the UK’s Home Office shows that the number of Zimbabweans entering the country through their Skills Visa has gone up by more than 400% over the past two years. In March of 2020, when the pandemic hit our shores, only 1 059 Zimbabweans left for the UK compared to an astounding 5 549 in March of this year. A lot of these are nurses and other healthcare workers. The data in the table below shows that Zimbabwe lags behind countries like India and Nigeria in terms of absolute numbers but when Zimbabwe’s relative size is taken into consideration we are the leading contributor of skills visas to the UK. We are also leading in terms of the sheer increase in the number of immigrants in the UK.