Economists have conservatively pegged migration out of Zimbabwe at 30% of the population. That’s just under 5 million people! That said, accurate figures are impossible given the weak statistical data available from within Zimbabwe, as well as the fact that so many expatriates are undocumented in their destination countries.

With the exception of the huge number rushing to South Africa, a significant percentage of Zimbabwean expats qualify as skilled workers, or professionals. And they are working wonders indeed, with figures as high as $18 billion dollars annually being earned by Zimbabweans outside the borders. Of this, approximately $3 billion is remitted – and though remittances are not counted as part of GDP, the role this income plays in boosting GDP activities at home is vital. At a household level, this money is all too often a critical lifeline for struggling families back home.

This issue of the Access Wealth Blog looks at which countries are likely to afford Zimbabweans abroad the best opportunity to send money home – which countries on average have the most favourable income potential, and lower costs of living? Visa and logistical issues are set aside.

The below table includes data on the number of Zimbabwean expatriates in some of the top destinations, as well as the average disposable income for each country, after tax. The third column looks at the cost of living in these nations, based on a middle class lifestyle. Although the income data is fairly reliable, migration data is much less so. These figures represent best possible estimates from embassies and research centres from the listed countries.

Country Number Zimbabwean Expatriates Average national income less tax (USD) Cost of Living Indicator
South Africa 3,500,000 1,400 46.45
United Kingdom 400,000 2,960 76.02
United States 100,000+ 3,258 77.23
Australia 20,000 3,780 85.96

It is expected that where prices are high, so too will be average wages and vice versa. Countries of a similar development status or in the same region also tend to have similar stats around income and cost of living. To see where you might be able to enjoy more savings, we can divide the national average income by the cost of living indicator and compare countries in this way. In the above group, Australia comes out on top, offering about 50% more mileage on the average salary than in South Africa. The USA is close behind at 40%, with the United Kingdom in third at about 30% better savings potential than South Africa.

Though interesting, making use of averages and indicators tells us little of the reality of life in these countries and the diversity of the lived experience of Zimbabwean expats therein. In particular, the cost of living indices run by global research tanks such as Numbeo, detail the cost of living for middle class people. There is little doubt that many Zimbabweans across the world are earning far less than the average for the country they are in, but saving, investing, or remitting far above what these indices would suggest is possible. This comes about through stringent budgeting and saving.

Access Finance can help you get your money home cheaply and instantly. Your friends or family can collect US Dollars in cash in Harare the minute your order is placed. Send as little as $100. Find out more here.

Access Finance is a financial services company registered in Zimbabwe.

Access Finance
7th Floor, Finsure House, Cnr Sam Nujoma St
Kwame Nkrumah Avenue, Harare, Zimbabwe
Telephone: +263 4 253 661-3