“The problems we face can never be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” Albert Einstein
I was quite happy to read that Germany intends to facilitate an African Marshall Plan as a means to address the long-term needs to develop Africa and reduce immigrants to Europe. It’s a smart idea which addresses the root causes of why Africans leave the continent. However, we must also look at the political architecture of Africa because, in my opinion, the political will for long-term, inclusive and sustainable development is not the main agenda of politics in Africa.
The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Programme, ERP) was an American initiative to aid Europe, in which the United States gave US$13 billion (approximately US$120 billion in current dollar value) in economic support to help rebuild European economies after the end of World War II. The plan was in operation for four years beginning in April 1948. The initiative is named after the then Secretary of State George Marshall.
The goals of the United States were to rebuild war-devastated regions, remove trade barriers, modernise industry, make Europe prosperous again, and prevent the spread of communism. The Marshall Plan required a lessening of interstate barriers, a dropping of many petty regulations constraining business, and encouraged an increase in productivity, labour union membership, as well as the adoption of modern business procedures, to put it in general.
In my opinion, Zimbabwe needs its own Marshall Plan in order to restore democracy, modernise industry, rebuild physical and social infrastructure, revive agriculture and ensure food security, provide emergency social safety nets, support and formalise grassroots commerce, transform state enterprises,unlock small to medium enterprise potential, increase productivity and competitiveness and re-build new democratic institutions.
There is no doubt that under President Robert Mugabe’s stewardship, Zimbabwe has become a failed State. A failed State is defined as a country in which State structures lack political will and/or capacity to provide the basic functions needed for poverty reduction, development and to safeguard the security and human rights of their populations. For any reconstruction plan such as the Marshall Plan to in work Zimbabwe, we will therefore need new governance architecture, but more importantly, we will need fresh brains and a fundamental political paradigm shift in government
The key success factor we will therefore have to consider first, before we implement any such reconstruction plan is the political will to want to do the right things. I think that Zanu PF, including the President has proven to us that despite the evidence of their failure, they are still unwilling, unable and incompetent to be architects of a new economy. We need to re-invent our country with a new vision and new energy.
Second, a strong democratic and accountable government will also be one of the key success factors. We have seen how, for example, the dissonance within our current government has led to a lack of informed policy consistency and effective implementation. We cannot expect any better until we have a new democratic government in place which puts national interests at the top of its priorities.
Third, we will need an alignment and congruence of intent between the political establishment and social and labour movements. We would need a social contract to be in place where all key stakeholders are included in coming up with a robust reconstruction strategy where everyone can contribute. The idea of a strong centre of power which makes all the key decisions is archaic and does not work as we have experienced.
Macro-economic reforms will also be critical. These must seek to create a stable macro-economic environment where we can effectively and continuously anticipate, plan and manage the economy so that we avoid or minimise the negative impact of unanticipated economic shocks and crises, whether they be internal or exogenous. A stable economy also arises out of a well-regulated but non-stifling financial services sector and a consistent and effective monetary policy. The central bank and the financial services sector as a whole, therefore, have a key role to play in ensuring macro-economic stability and growth.
We will also require an aggressive industrialisation policy that is integrated to agricultural revival. Agricultural revival, which is linked to industrial revival, is key if we are to create jobs and create sustainable incomes particularly in the rural areas where poverty has become common. This of course has to be also linked to the rehabilitation and development of new private and public infrastructure both urban and rural.
Our approach should be the establishment of industrial hubs based on value add of agricultural products and the rebuilding of our manufacturing capabilities. We will have to reduce imports and we may have to put in the necessary protection measures so that we can reduce competition from Chinese imports.
The private sector will have an important role to play and we will need a constructive non-partisan partnership between government and the private sector. There is no doubt that any reconstruction effort must primarily be driven by the private sector.However, we cannot effectively implement anything meaningful as long as we have patronage mentality and we do not effectively deal with corruption. For our country to be able to effectively spend billions of developmental funds effectively we certainly cannot rely on the Zanu PF infrastructure because we all know where the money will end up.
Finally, a Marshall plan for Zimbabwe must be a five-year plan which has the support of all stakeholders. Part of the plan must include the establishment of an independent and empowered technical authority responsible for management and implementation. A technical reconstruction or national transitional authority will have to be established. Such a body must be inclusive and accountable only to parliament.
In conclusion, any reconstruction plan needs to be inclusive and include all our provinces. Our approach should be to come up with a provincial development blueprints to ensure that we spread reconstruction throughout the country and all Zimbabweans can benefit regardless of where they may reside within the country. We cannot afford to repeat a skewed approach to development which excludes others.
In my opinion, if we can secure US$100 billion for a reconstruction plan such as the Marshall Plan, Zimbabwe has an opportunity to change the course of history.
We have the necessary skills and the required knowledge to turn around our country onto a better growth trajectory, but what will continue to be an albatross on our necks is Zanu PF and its culture of patronage, corruption and inability to effectively plan and implement developmental projects.
I truly believe that another Zimbabwe is indeed possible but only when we have new political leadership and government in place which is accountable and which puts Zimbabwe first. The current political paradigm is unfortunately not based on inclusive growth and development but on the creation of a rent-seeking predatory elite. We cannot expect it to create the Zimbabwe which we want.
Another Zimbabwe is possible!
Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. These New perspectives articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society. E-mail: email@example.com and cell +263 772 382 852.