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Zimbabwe must shape up

LAST week at a crucial meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), finance ministers and central bank governors from around the world said Africa has turned a new leaf and is getting it together although a deeper “structural transformation” is needed so that ordinary citizens can benefit from the current boom.

Editor’s Memo with Dumisani Muleya

Many African countries, excluding Zimbabwe of course except during the rebound phase after 2009, have been experiencing phenomenal growth trends despite that the benefits are not properly cascading down to the people.

African governments and the IMF agreed on the urgent need to harness the continent’s rapid economic growth to improve the people’s standards of living as conflicts and other problems continue to sweep across some parts of the continent.

A number of conflicts have flared on the African continent in recent decades. While peace now prevails across swathes of the continent, instability, caused by political and religious conflicts fuelled by poverty, still persists, for instance, in trouble spots like Nigeria, Central African Republic, Somalia, South Sudan and the Sahel region, among others.

This has had a devastating impact on affected economies. While the destabilisng impact of conflicts has been shattering, it has not halted Africa’s upward trajectory.

According to various reports, including the latest edition of The Economist, sub-Saharan Africa has made huge leaps in the last decade.

Malaria deaths in some of the worst-affected countries have declined by 30% and HIV infections by up to 74%. Life expectancy across Africa has increased by about 10% and child mortality rates in most African countries have been falling steeply.

A booming economy has made a big difference. Real income per person has increased by more than 30%, whereas in the previous 20 years, it shrank by nearly 10%.

Africa, which has vast natural resources, is the world’s fastest-growing continent at the moment. Over the next decade, its GDP is expected to rise by an average of 6% a year, not least thanks to foreign direct investment. FDI has gone from US$15 billion in 2002 to US$37 billion in 2006 and US$46 billion in 2012.

In the midst of the booms some countries are crash-landing largely to due to bad leadership, poor governance and corruption.

In Southern Africa, upswings are also evident. Zimbabwe’s immediate neighbours, South Africa, Zambia, Botswana and Mozambique are doing relatively well economically despite domestic social challenges.

Mozambique, one of the poorest countries in the world, is actually now on a phenomenal recovery path due to massive coal and gas discoveries. The jackpot has turned the country into an energy hotspot while bringing an investment bonanza.

A construction boom is thus under way, concrete proof of the economic renewal. Growth averages 7%, ensuring sustained recovery from the ravages of a 15-year civil war.

Compare this with what is currently happening in Zimbabwe which has an unfriendly investment climate, courtesy of the ill-conceived indigenisation policy and retrogressive politics. Companies are closing down and workers losing jobs en masse, worsening the already high unemployment and poverty.

Investors are either sitting on the fence or taking flight due to the persistent problems of bad and inconsistent policies, hostile populist rhetoric and uncertainty.

When President Robert Mugabe left Maputo for Harare at the dawn of Independence, the late Mozambican leader Samora Machel reportedly told him not to emulate his failed command economic policies which had ruined the country, but it seems that advice, including from Julius Nyerere, was ignored. One wonders what Machel and Nyerere would be thinking of Mugabe if they were still alive.

All the same, it’s time Zimbabwe shapes up or else it will remain an island of entrenched economic regression ruled by kleptocrats and architects of poverty at the heart of Sadc.

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