What can the African diaspora contribute to innovation and knowledge creation? The case study of Zimbabwean innovators

by Juliet Thondhlana, Roda Madziva and Evelyn Chiyevo Garwe

01 Apr 2021
Journal of the British Academy
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Number of pages
26 (pp. 101-125)

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Abstract: The importance of diaspora and transnational knowledge production, innovation, and development is of growing interest, particularly in the developing world. The phenomenal increase in high human capital migration from poor to rich countries has historically led to what is commonly known as brain drain, which has negatively impacted the capacity of such countries to innovate. Yet more recently the emergence of the phenomenon of transnationalism has demonstrated the potential to transform brain drain into brain circulation, for the mutual benefit of both sending and receiving contexts. This article uses the case of Zimbabwe to explore the role of diasporan professionals, scholars, and entrepreneurs in contributing to knowledge production, innovation, and development initiatives in their countries of origin. Zimbabwe is an example of many African countries that have experienced substantial attrition of highly qualified knowledge workers for various reasons. A qualitative approach, involving interviews and documentary evidence, enabled the researchers to engage with the Zimbabwean diaspora to capture their narratives regarding the challenges and opportunities, which were then used to develop successful transnational knowledge production initiatives.

Keywords: Diaspora transnationalism, Zimbabwe, brain drain and brain circulation, country of origin.

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 9, supplementary issue 1 (Repositioning of Africa in Knowledge Production: Shaking off Historical Stigmas).

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