By Donovan Chimhandamba
Brawlers Captain, Fidel Zimbango, you have jumped into the difficult though prestigious position of being the 4th Brawlers Captain and you together with Daniel Maimba your Secretary General supported by your committee have taken to the challenge like fish in water.
You and your team have put together a great function today and on behalf of the Brawlers fraternity, I would like to say well-done Captain and your team, you deserve a round of applause. Well done!
Acting Consular General, members of the diplomatic corps, our beautifully dressed partners, and the Brawlers community at large, as the year 2019 draws to its conclusion, it gives me such great pleasure to be here and continue to celebrate the Brawlers vision.
As Brawlers, and the Zimbabwean diaspora at large, we built this fraternity with a purpose driven by the belief that when ordinary people come together in numbers, we can achieve extraordinary feats. We set on path of building this fraternity on strong belief that there is no such thing as a self-made man but rather one can achieve great things through the help of others.
We believed that if we can get a group of people under Brawlers fraternity to trust each other, who challenge and inspire each other, who spend a lot of time together, through cooperation and thorough conviction we can achieve extraordinary things that we would not dare dream of as individuals.
Now, Brawlers is 8yrs old and through co-operation we have seen some ordinary man work together to deliver on daring missions. In 2016, the Brawlers formed its business company called Brawlers in Business as the vehicle that will pursue business interests on behalf of its invested members.
The ordinary man from the Brawlers fraternity using Brawlers in Business then formed the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG).
DIDG’s aim is to find ways of mobilising diaspora resources into developing the regional infrastructure. DIDG targeted Zimbabwe’s ailing infrastructure and the first project it is pursuing is the moribund National Railways of Zimbabwe. That is the purpose and space that the Brawlers through DIDG have set their eyes on to occupy in Zimbabwe and the greater region.
Boggles the Mind
Now this is an extraordinary mission being carried out by ordinary Brawlers and as seen over the last few days it is clearly not as easy as just taking your money into Zimbabwe and all works like magic.
It is mind boggling that in this new dispensation there are elements like the current Minister of Transport JB Matiza, whom for personal reasons is bent on carrying out unlawful acts in a desperate bid to thwart the nobble actions of patriotic Zimbabweans living in diaspora.
These Zimbabweans only want to create history by helping turn around the moribund and insolvent National Railways of Zimbabwe.
Though the diplomatic missions under the leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade have thrown in their weight behind the diaspora initiative, a resolute and desperate Minister stands between diaspora dreams and NRZ’s future.
Everyone in this room, together with other diaspora in UK, USA, Australia, Botswana, Namibia and other countries are astonished by the actions being led by the desperate Minister to thwart what you set to achieve as group of ordinary people. They say evil prevails when good man do nothing.
NRZ Diaspora Fiasco
The question that you all have now is considering the NRZ and diaspora fiasco, where should we be putting our diaspora investment efforts. Do we continue and pretend that these challenges are not real? Do we walk away and cement our statuses here in the diaspora?
The topic I have been asked to discuss, is a topic that I have had to ask myself over the last few months having experienced the undesirables take actions to derail the efforts of these ordinary patriotic man. The question is “What is the Brawlers place in this Zimbabwe”?
Clearly it is not as easy as one might have thought considering how desperate our country needs investment and development.
I know this gloomy picture has been painted by many news media houses as dire straits and suggests that taking diaspora money into Zimbabwe is high risk and will only suffer the same fate that DIDG is fighting today.
Now with that in mind, the question remains, where to now as Brawlers and diaspora?
Best place to start is by looking at our strengths as Brawlers and diaspora union. Our strengths are clear. We have proven that ordinary Zimbabweans in diaspora just like the Jews can actually work together to pursue an extraordinary mission.
We have proven we can crowd fund and corporate to invest in meaningful businesses. We now have a set up that can now even consider investments in other jurisdictions that might offer incentives for those who want to build something. Nothing stops us from pursuing other projects while we try to resolve the blockages that are being created for us in Zimbabwe.
Change of Priorities
As DIDG, our strategy was always to start with building our investment base in Zimbabwe and over the long term leverage the Zimbabwe operations into regional projects. It just made sense that we start with Zimbabwe. Now if Zimbabwe is proving tough to start with, we have to now bring regional projects to the fore and prioritise our resource allocation towards easier to close projects.
At DIDG, we are already advanced with looking at regional water, power and transport projects. We have a utilities company in South Africa as an example that is being developed and details will be shared at the appropriate time.
This does not mean we are abandoning Zimbabwe, but rather we are saying that while we pursue the NRZ project to its logical conclusion, employing all diplomatic and legal means to address the challenges burdened on us by individual persons with personal interest, we will prioritise resources towards regional projects.
Immigrants and diaspora have been very successful in investing in other countries other than their own home country. Countries like the USA, Saudi Arabia, Canada UAE, Israel and Switzerland where built by foreigners or other countries Diaspora.
These countries provided conducive environments that allowed the Diaspora of other nations to build their economies to what they are today. Closer to home you can look at how the Jewish community has worked together over a very short period to build companies like Aspen, Discovery, FNB, Investec, Blue label, Jawitz Properties and the list is endless. These are diaspora doing great things building companies of the future in the diaspora.
As the Brawlers fraternity, and as Zimbabweans, we are allowed in our unified approach to invest and build wealth in receptive geographies while we continue to monitor how Zimbabwe investment landscape and in particular how they handle our NRZ and diaspora project.
While we cry about the setback, we can leverage our association to also do what the Jews have done here in South Africa and build our own Discoveries, or our own Investecs.
I would like to close by saying, Zimbabwe remains our home and is a transitioning economy which at some point in time things will change for the better.
For now, we should not let the seemingly unsurmountable challenges thrown at us make us believe that our success as diaspora community solely depends on us succeeding in Zimbabwe but rather, our success lies in our ability to organise ourselves as a group ordinary people through platforms such as the Brawlers to do extraordinary things anywhere else in this global village.
We can be organised and invest in South Africa and other regional countries just like the Jews have done.
Dr Reginald Chima
With that Program Director, please allow me to introduce our Guest of Honor today, Dr Reginald Ikechukwu Chima, who will give us a talk on the subject called “Doing Business in the Midst of Famine”.
For those who don’t know Dr Chima, let me give you a quick summary of who he is.
Born on July 5, 1964, and a national of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr Reginald Chima, holds a doctorate degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, a post-doctoral Master of Business Administration from the University of London, and is a Post doctoral Fellow at the University of London. He is an Associate Member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
He has a career spanning over 20 years in which he has worked as a university professor in economics, a senior policy advisor and a senior diplomat including 17 years with the United Nations.
Dr Reginald Chima has experience leading and managing large projects, programmes and initiatives in Africa, such as the US$ 56 million multilateral Project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the £10 million UK Aid project in 10 countries of Africa.
For six years, Dr Reginald Chima, was the chairman of the United Nations Staff Association with the responsibility to coordinate diverse, multicultural and a multidisciplinary team of 300 United Nations staff at the regional offices in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Dr Reginald Chima has travelled to, worked, and lived in many countries around the world including Switzerland, United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
Please join me in welcoming Dr Reginald Chima as he walks up here to give the Brawlers his Keynote speech.
I thank you!!!
This speech was delivered by Donovan Chimhandamba, DIDG Chairman at the Brawlers Year-End function at the CCJ this week
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