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How the Zimbabwean Diaspora has Kept the Economy Going

Kerita Choga, 34, launched an errand-running service, Tuma Kerri, in November. Within that short time, she says she has gained hundreds of customers — mostly from the Zimbabwean diaspora — looking to buy goods, including gifts, and to have them delivered to family and friends inside the county. The Zimbabwean diaspora is believed to be more than three million people strong. Together, they contribute to remittances the country’s central bank estimates hit an all-time high of $1bn in 2020. The World Bank reckons remittances were even higher — reaching $1.7bn in 2020 and accounting for nearly 11 percent of the country’s economic growth. Those funds are often an essential lifeline, given that Zimbabwe was mired in an economic crisis before COVID-19 struck and that it has only grown more financially fragile since. “The lockdown has drastically affected businesses. The tourism and hospitality sector is the hardest hit,” former president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries Sifelani Jambangwe told Al Jazeera. But official sectors mask the deeper pain inflicted on Zimbabwe’s informal economy, where some 90 percent of the country’s residents eke out a living and where businesses are not considered “essential” and therefore exempt from COVID-19 restrictions.