Four out of five of the almost 1 million Zimbabweans officially outside the country live in South Africa, says the southern African country's statistics agency.
News24 earlier reported that South Africa is home to more than 700 000 Zimbabweans while Botswana has the second highest number of emigrants from the country, with just above 40 000, according to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency.
Statistics South Africa, meanwhile, says there are 3.95 million foreign nationals in SA.
South Africa is officially home to 773 246 of the 908 913 Zimbabwean nationals that make up the diaspora, Zimstat said on Tuesday. The data provides the first official estimate of the number of Zimbabweans living abroad after a census was carried out in April, the agency’s Director-General Taguma Mahonde said by phone.
The number of diasporans may be "undercounted" and could be much bigger than the data released by ZimStat, said Tony Hawkins, an independent economist. Estimates by human-rights groups indicate that up to a quarter of the population, or about 4 million people, left the country as more than two decades of economic crisis have forced them to seek work outside their nation.
Zimbabwe’s currency has collapsed, annual inflation is at 285% and more than half the population was estimated in March to be facing acute food insecurity.
At least 14% of Zimbabwe’s 15-million people have a relative living outside the country, according to the statistics agency. Migration was "steady" between 2001 to 2015 and thereafter there was "a sharp increase that reached a peak in 2021," ZimStat said.
The top three reasons for emigrating from Zimbabwe are for employment, education and training, and family, the agency said.
South Africa plans to end most special permits for foreigners as it revamps its immigration policies to manage an influx of economic migrants, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said in an interview last month.
Additional reporting by Lenin Ndebele, News24.