Ask yourself the question right now, ‘would I ever go back home?’, the answer I have heard many times is ‘there is nothing at home for me’.
When I was a young girl and when I would speak to some of my older relatives back home in Zimbabwe, they would often remind me to work hard and do well in school here in England, ‘because you guys are the ones who are going to fix the country’. Although I never said it back to them, I always thought, ‘that ain’t my business, let me live my life’. Especially after seeing what I had seen on the news about what was going on in my country, I wasn’t going to return to Zimbabwe to have to go and take a whole wheelbarrow full of money just to go and buy bread. At that time, I never even wanted to claim I was born in Zimbabwe, it wasn’t a cool thing at the time.
There are many reasons why expatriates leave their home countries to go and start new lives in other countries, from socio-economic to political motives. The recurring reason that I have observed amongst many is to seek out better opportunities for oneself. We leave our countries sometimes without a plan in tow but just a hope that wherever we go, life will be somewhat bliss. When you arrive at your paradise destination there is the assumption from those back home that you have landed in some sort of gold mine, but we all know that is often further from the truth. No matter your circumstances in this country back home you are seen as the family’s saviour and sometimes even the neighbourhood’s messiah.
There is the constant pressure of needing to provide for those back at home once you are here. Whatever financial emergency that creeps up back home, everyone has your number on speed dial. Whether it be guilt or pride, you feel obliged to provide. That call that comes in the middle of the night about some situation that doesn’t even remotely involve you and there you are in a queue at Western Union making the transfer. If you calculate the amount of money that you have sent back home since you have been here, you are sure to experience some sort of discomfort and shock. Research shows that expatriates send back three times the amount our home countries receive in foreign aid.
Sometimes those back at home asking are not asking out of malice, they genuinely do not have. Yet still, working extra hours and budgeting to ensure you have money to send back home each month is a burden most of us do not wish to bear. I’m sure if we all knew of a way of making sure the people back home never ask us for any sort of financial assistance our ears would prick up and we would jump at that opportunity. My fellow expats that way is us.
Ask yourself the question right now, ‘would I ever go back home?’, the answer I have heard many times is ‘there is nothing at home for me’. There are many things that we find distasteful here in England (the weather is at the top of the list) and there are some things that we miss back home. If we could merge the things we enjoy in England and some things back home, we would have the perfect ideal country to live in. Many of us our annual holiday is going back home for a few weeks. So, if we enjoy those few weeks so much, what do you need back home for you to relocate back? The quote ‘You have to build the life you want’ comes to mind. For starters, basic amenities would be great. You want to open your tap and have water running and a regular supply of electricity wouldn’t go amiss.
We are comfortable in here and England is now our home, with our settlements and British passports in place we are adopted descendants of the Queen. We have the accents to match and we are as patriotic as Barry and Sue who have the red and white flag hanging out of the window on Saint George’s Day. As long as we have a source of income here in England and as long as we have enough money to keep sending back home, there is no real need to ever go back home one might think. And why should you go back home, you have a right to reside anywhere you wish in the world although the Home Affairs department may disagree. What we miss out on though by staying in this comfort zone is seizing the opportunities presented to us to make our own countries better.
Immigration is important to the development of a country and us expats do a great job here but they need us even more in our respective home countries. With all the skills and knowledge, we have acquired if we take all of that back home, one day there will come a time where your loved ones will not be calling you because they need money to take someone to the hospital for something as basic as painkillers. This is the higher motivation.
It’s of course always easier said than done. The wonderful privilege that we expats have is that once we have integrated here in England, we now have more than one country to call home and you can always reap the benefits of both countries. That can only happen if we build our home countries up to become self-sustainable countries that we may wish to reside in once again and perhaps our children may want to go and start their lives there.
Of course, the other issue is by starting to invest back home, you can’t always be certain that the people you put in place to operate your venture are always going to be loyal. Truth be told corruption is everywhere. MP’s expenses scandal is a form of corruption but just in different clothing. Corruption can be found in Government and even in families. It will be the ones closest to you that will pull the rug from under your feet. Some of us have been victims of sending money back home to build a house and as each month you receive pictures from your cousin of the said house being built, on the day you arrive to view your house, the house is non-existent, and your once trusted cousin is nowhere to be found.
This mustn’t discourage us to invest back home. There are many ways to participate back in our countries, whether it be time, money, resources or introducing new networks. Every diaspora has the power to make a change back home. At times we find many excuses for not doing so. We can help people back home find investors here, find donors and business partners. What we want to do is to empower people back home and make them self-reliant. Some key areas for development are education, training and healthcare and it could be as simple as going over to teach about contraception, STI’s or even the power of social media. We can advise people back home about global opportunities that can help them expand into new markets. You can set up a workshop in your village on something as simple as how to sell the vegetables you grow in your back garden.
The diasporas are very fortunate in that we have been given a seat at the table. Just the mere fact that you are in a country where there are many opportunities to develop you must take these opportunities and then create more seats at the table for your people back home. No one cares more about our countries than us, the emotional connection we still have to our home countries makes this true.
Most Governments don’t do much to incentivise the diaspora to invest back home, they make us feel alienated. It’s almost as if there is a bad grudge similar to that of a divorce. In some countries the diasporas are not allowed to vote. They could easily remove legal barriers on diasporas and find a way to co-operate with us but most Governments don’t see the benefit of this. If the Government are not for us perhaps we should pay them no mind then. Just like here in England, the Government don’t have much power in influencing their citizens, it is individual regular influencers that we can relate to that we would rather listen to and that’s where the diaspora must start when investing back home. We can connect with the elites in our home countries who do have an influence and work with them to create our dream country.
We cannot sit back and keep relying on foreign aid and intervention to help our countries when the power is also in our hands. As a diaspora watching your country do well it’s like seeing your child flourish amongst others. Many will not feel any type of obligation to assist back home. After all, our immediate families are here and we don’t have the burden of having to send funds back home. Furthermore, whatever is going on in our countries of origin does not really disrupt our daily lives so why should we even bat an eyelid?