In a remarkable demographic shift, over one million Zimbabweans who previously left the country have returned to settle permanently in the first six months of 2023. This substantial increase in returnees is largely attributed to the government’s efforts to entice skilled citizens back to Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) reported that approximately 1.03 million individuals, previously identified as emigrants, returned between January and June 2023. The first quarter saw around 378,000 Zimbabweans moving back, with a significant rise to 655,377 in the April to June period.
ZimStat categorizes these individuals as expatriates returning after declaring themselves emigrants and living abroad for more than a year. The second quarter of 2023 witnessed a 43.6% increase in foreign visitors to Zimbabwe, reaching 331,982 compared to the same period in 2022. The number of returning residents in this period showed an impressive surge of almost 162% compared to the previous year.
Interestingly, while ZimStat’s 2022 national census indicated that 908,914 Zimbabweans were living abroad, Statistics South Africa estimated around one million Zimbabweans resided in South Africa last year alone. The latest immigration data from ZimStat, however, primarily covers Zimbabwean expatriates who did not emigrate permanently.
During the first quarter of 2023, Zimbabwe experienced 603,412 arrivals, with returning residents accounting for 63.4% and foreign visitors comprising the remaining 36.6%. The nation’s economy has shown consistent growth in recent years, opening up new job and investment prospects for skilled workers. This economic progress, coupled with the government’s incentives like tax breaks, subsidies, and business setup support, has made the idea of returning home increasingly appealing for the Zimbabwean diaspora.
This substantial reverse migration trend underscores the evolving economic and social landscape in Zimbabwe, reflecting the country’s efforts to rebuild and strengthen its workforce and economy.