Zimbabwe’s tipping point – Here’s why it can turn around quickly

‘CHANGE seldom occurs until the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of change.’ There is a point where this statement proves to be true especially when a nation drops from being the ‘breadbasket to the begging bowl of Africa’ within a single generation.

It’s that point when enough people no longer have anything to lose and hence push forward into a space they have never been before despite the risk. It’s the space where it takes only 3% to 15% of the population moving in the same direction in new levels of unity that results in a tipping point that accelerates the transformational wave to a point of no return.

For the sake of clarity, it’s worthwhile to define the word transformation – ‘It is a process of profound and radical change that orients an individual, organisation, community, city or nation in a new direction and takes them/it to an entirely different level of effectiveness.’

Now that Zimbabwe seems to be drawing closer towards this transformational tipping point, it is a good time to look at some of the elements why this has the potential of being a model case for African national recovery and restoration.

The power of a common ‘unowned’ vision

The momentum for transformation is being stoked by a population drawn into unity around a common vision that is not ‘owned’ by anyone. It’s not owned by a political party, or a particular religion or church denomination or racial group.

It is owned collectively in the hearts of the people, driven by patriotic passion and based on a common desire to see good for every Zimbabwean. Amazingly this momentum was not ignited by a high profile positional leader, but by a humble unknown Christian evangelical Pastor Evan Mawarire who started the #ThisFlag campaign.

Common stripping of prejudice and pride results in joint humility

The time of extreme difficulty has stripped Zimbabweans of all races (especially those locally based) of any racial supremacy and pride towards each other. Both black and white have lost almost everything and it is from this place of collective humility that the rebuilding process will take place. Collective humility is the foundation that builds the trust required to knit together a diverse nation into united action towards a common vision.

A critical ingredient in the future success of Zimbabwe lies in the fact that most prejudice, privilege and arrogance based factors have been eliminated in the mind-sets of the majority of the population and so they are ready to work together to rebuild.

Tough times breed innovation and creativity

Tough times often force people into developing a mind-set of innovation and creativity and that is one of the positive by-products of the ‘dark days’ endured by Zimbabweans.

The combination of having to leave home to scrounge for a living in other nations and losing their local livelihood has led to the elimination of the dependency and victim mentality. The experience of surviving an environment of hyperinflation, lack of access to cash and +80% unemployment levels has resulted in almost every Zimbabwean becoming an entrepreneur of some kind.

The ability to trade in the most adverse conditions has become second nature to the average Zimbabwean. On top of that their work ethic is second to none. All of these factors born out of adversity auger well for the country’s potential of developing into a knowledge based economy that will lead Africa in technological and service based innovation.

Amazing quality of human and non-human assets

For any nation (or business for that matter) to grow it requires that as much of its human intellectual capital be applied to the task of multiplying available resources and converting them into wealth. Zimbabwe already has an abundance in human intellectual capital, resources (mineral reserves, agricultural land, tourism, etc.) and solid financial and services based systems. A massive constraint that has stopped progress is lack of financial capital.

Praise should be given where praise is due. One of the things that the current regime did very well was ensuring that a world class education system was maintained, built upon and expanded to every citizen after 1980. This resulted in Zimbabwe having the highest level of literacy and skills per capita in Africa.

The Zimbabwean case of human intellectual capital (knowledge and expertise) is undisputed as many blue chip companies, start-up and entrepreneurial ventures across all business segments in SA and in many other nations have Zimbabweans at the helm or in strategic leadership positions. Zimbabwe has been a massive exporter of human intellectual capital to Africa and the world – these ‘exports’ have both continental and global insights, expertise and networks to be leveraged in the rebuilding process.

A winning business case?

‘Any organisation (or country) can never move beyond the constraints of its leadership’. With the right leadership in place a strong business case can be put forward that will open up the doors of human and financial capital flow to kick start the recovery process. In fact, with the South Africa’s economic growth projections tending towards 0%, Zimbabwe might just end up being the investors new destination of choice.

Is what we are seeing the start of the greatest national turnaround in Africa?

* Patrick Kuwana is founder and CEO of Crossover Transformation Group. You can contact him at patrick@crossovertransformation.co.za.