So a few weeks ago I was at an SME workshop that was held in Harare and was fortunate to share a table with executives from this leading funeral insurance company in Zimbabwe. We got to discuss various financial challenges and opportunities that exist in our motherland.
So as discussions went on I posed one question to this executive team ‘Do you consider the diasporans when designing your company marketing strategies?’
The response was shocking ‘No we do not cover diasporans in our policies, we are strictly a Zimbabwean company’ came the short response from the team? I had to go to great lengths to explain that the Diasporan Community remits close to a Billion dollars every year to Zimbabwe and that this is a quarter of the national budget. I also had to explain that this largely ignored community is a key player in the Economy.
So the reality is -a lot of diasporans cover their relatives in Zimbabwe on medical and funeral insurances. On the Mendelow matrix, here is a player with high interest and high power. This community is surely a key stakeholder in business in Zimbabwe and for this company. So Yes they do not cover Zimbabweans in Austria, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, Moldova, UK,US and South Africa.They do not cover them directly but do so indirectly because most of them are remitting funds which also cover funeral insurance! Unfortunately this observation is not restricted to this funeral insurance company-a lot of Zimbabwean companies are in the same boat.
A lot of Zim companies are inward looking and its no wonder why the RBZ is having to introduce incentives to encourage or push a lot of companies to seriously refocus and export.
So what should Zimbabwean companies do?
Whenever you are drafting your company strategies make sure you cover the Diaspora Community. Find how you can benefit by tapping into this growing community. As explained above-you can benefit directly or indirectly.
You need to carry out detailed market surveys that will assist you in developing targeted products and services for this sector.
Some companies have already moved to tap into the riches that this community possess. A case in mind is that of Econet which has developed various products and services that service this sector. More companies are encouraged to look outward or fall by the wayside.
The other time I witnessed an advert by homelink on ZTV. Not a bad idea from Homelink but your target market and therefore focus is to communicate and engage the Diasporan community which is resident outside Zimbabwe. Send your message to Zimbabweans in South Africa-send your message to the Diasporan community in Europe, US, Canada etc. Carry out detailed studies of the various platforms that you can use to send your message across. You will also need to engage this vibrant community…an advert is not good enough, establish a help desk at Harare or Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo airport that provides information to diasporans coming to Zim and those departing etc. There is more that needs to be done inorder to effectively engage this sector-some old models my need to be discarded as this is new territory for most managers.
So what will happen if local companies fail to develop Diaspora Strategies?
If you are old fashioned and believe in doing things the way you have always done then guess what will happen? Other players are going to fill the void. Munemo and friends can simply establish a small funeral insurance firm that takes advantage of the Diasporan Community and within a few years challenge established funeral insurance companies.
If Homelink doesn’t restructure then other financial institutions can easily fill the gap that exists. Do not be surprised to see big firms with financial muscle such as Econet moving in and quickly filling the gap.
This sector presents low barriers to entry, ZBIN established in less than 20 months already has 28,000 members. Our website established 3 weeks ago already has more than 12,000 visitors translating into 500 visitors per day. So this is a sector that has high growth rates and does not need old fashioned models. Zim companies are therefore expected to immediately go back to their stakeholder matrices and ask why they did not include the Diaspora community in the first place. They should ask more questions which should help them to come up with fresh and innovative strategies to tap into this community.
To other sectors of the Zimbabwe, the question is…Is the Diaspora Community interested in real estate matters only? Some have purchased houses already ..what next? How about participation in the land reform? How about other investment areas such as Mining?
Food for thought but the key message is that Zimbabwe companies can only ignore the Diasporan Community at their own peril.
In part 2 next week, we will talk about how to effectively engage the diaspora.
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