Every country has a diaspora community, some bigger than others.
For some in relatively developed countries, it could be about fresh experiences, perspectives and politics.
In Africa, it is still about economic opportunities more than anything, the children of the land are traversing unfamiliar territory in search of the proverbial greener pastures.
Those in the diaspora, either within the region or in far continents have begun taking new form, beyond the microeconomic scope.
Some are becoming sources of foreign direct investment for their source countries.
Instead of remittances, which stand at US$48 billion per annum for Sub-Saharan Africa, there is a shift towards sustained financing.
Africans working in foreign lands are working to build empires in their own countries, even those who are within the region are seeking to inject excess earnings or finances they source into the development of places they call home.
Establishments like the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG) made up of Zimbabwean citizens in South Africa are an example of the new trajectory that investment is taking in the region and beyond.
They self-describe as a “company founded and duly incorporated in Zimbabwe and South Africa. DIDG is spearheaded largely by Zimbabwean Diasporas based in South Africa with the long-term plan of expanding the shareholder base to Zimbabwean residents and the rest of its diaspora.”
Such vehicles of investment, rooted in patriotic nostalgia and the need to see home countries develop have been gaining spaces within the pockets of economic discourse.
Experts like Chelsea Markowitz, who have studied the Southern African market posit that in the region, private investment is likely to be a catalyst in industrial development and the resulting economic growth.
In her paper on investment in SADC, titled FDI Trends in SADC: Implications for Value Chains, Industrialisation and Inclusive Growth she says that there are four types of FDI drivers.
These are natural resource-seeking FDI, market-seeking FDI, efficiency-seeking FDI and strategic asset-seeking FDI.
The model in which citizens in foreign land direct resources to their home countries are in most cases informed by efficiency seeking.
They would have experienced better service elsewhere and they are driven to transfer the same efficiencies back home.
Others would have struggled with certain existent services from a distance and found business opportunities in their struggles.
This is the case of United Kingdom based Zimbabwean Takwana Tyaranini, founder of Senditoo, a remittances company with operations in 140 countries including his home country.
Thirty-nine of these 140 countries are in Africa.
For some time Tyaranini and his partner Ibrahima Soumano struggled with sending airtime to their families back home and this encouraged them to explore a system providing such a service.
Tyaranini explained as he gave insights into the genesis of his company.
He said in 2015, Soumano travelled to Guinea he gifted his family airtime vouchers and this triggered the idea for Senditoo.
Beyond sending airtime, the company has expanded its scope, they are now offering remittance services and also have functions which allow people to recharge electricity for their relatives from anywhere in the world.
Tyaranini`s investment could be one of the most eminent examples of how capital is flowing across the world and how those in the diaspora can help grow their home economies.
Senditoo gives specific attention to the Zimbabwean market, compared to other countries in which it has operations perhaps out of sentiment.
There is belief by financial institutions that countries should direct bilateral relations towards countries where they have most of their citizens.
Seamless policies between such countries can improve investment.
Especially within the SADC region and the African Union, where governments can leverage their relationships with fellow African countries in the interest of economic growth.
The African Continental Free Trade Area which has since been ratified by almost all African countries will be a good place to start.
According to the World Bank 2010. Migration and Remittances Factbook; “The bulk of intra-African emigration has occurred across neighboring countries. In West Africa, more than 70 percent of emigration took place within the same sub region; in southern Africa 66 percent of emigration was intra-African, reflecting the strong pull of South Africa.”
A joint report by the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AFDB) commissioned when now Zimbabwe`s Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube was still Chief Economist and Vice President at AFDB found that there is an indigenous knowledge element that can influence investment.
The 2011 report titled Leveraging migration for Africa: remittances, skills, and investments which was edited by Dilip Ratha argued that there should be an effort by governments to make diaspora based citizens feel they are part of their home countries.
“Lack of adequate data impairs efforts to increase the contributions diasporas can make to origin countries. The size of the African diaspora is larger than the official estimate of 30,6 million migrants.
Many migrants are not counted in national surveys, especially within Africa, and many descendants of migrants still have emotional ties to the country of their ancestors,” read the report.
In Zimbabwe, the diaspora has been showing appetite to invest back home especially those in the United Kingdom.
They have become a big market for those selling agricultural plots and mining claims.
The Zimbabwean government has set up the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (ZIDA), a one-stop investment shop they hope will smoothen processes.
Another source of investment has been South Africa, where Zimbabwean talent is highly sought after.
This is because of the cultural intersections, which allow Zimbabweans to blend in well in South Africa.
In a way, it is similar to how professionals in Taiwan end up occupying spaces in the Chinese corporate world, where they earn but invest back in Taiwan.
Shona tradition has a concept known as kusunza (scrounging) where people, during times of strife and drought travel with sacks begging for food in fertile villages.
They take the grain back home after periods of searching to share with their families.
If trends are anything to go by, the children of the land are modernising the idea, sweating in foreign lands to bring prosperity to where the umbilical cord is buried.
For countries in southern Africa, there should be efforts to ensure the whole region becomes a single market.
This should not be complicated, as there is a SADC protocol on finance and development which states that there should be; “Integration of the national markets into an expanded regional market with a higher level of liquidity; and a harmonised investment regime as well as business environment.”
For those in Europe and the Americas, maybe the investment back home could be a form of resistance, driving capital back to where it was stolen.