HomeAnalysisThree things that will shape 2022

Three things that will shape 2022

It’s a new month and a new year!

However, the ‘newness’ of it all is starting to wear off. We’re almost through January, the fun of the festive season is over and we’re back in the office. It may seem like a strange time to speculate about what 2022 will bring — after all, those pieces tend to come out in the last week of December and the early days of January. But with the country getting used to the rhythm of the year, it’s worth taking this transitional period to look at what 2022 is shaping up to be like for Zimbabwe, and what are some of the challenges we may face this year. Here are my three predictions for some of the biggest topics that will come to define 2022:

Expect shake ups
Three of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) focus on employment, economic growth and equity. SDG Goal 8 calls for Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 9 focuses on Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, and Goal 10 targets reduced inequalities. It’s no secret that steady, formal unemployment has been a problem for years. ZimStats’ 2019 figures (its most recent data) puts the unemployment rate at 16,4%. On the other hand, the World Bank’s figures put Zimbabwe’s 2020 unemployment rate at 5,73%. It’s important to note that this data may include people working in the informal sector. An estimated 80-90% of the working population is in the country’s informal sector. While there is nothing wrong with working in this space, it lacks the security and safety nets of stable, formal employment. But life isn’t rosy for the formally employed either. Nurses went on strike in 2020 over low wages, and although the government paid bonuses to civil servants in foreign currency, it’s still not enough for workers who want a pay increase.

So what will change this year? The most significant will be more options for skilled and low-skilled Zimbabweans to find stable employment outside the country. A recent report by Al Jazeera highlights how workers in sectors such as emergency services and health now find it easier to leave Zimbabwe to work elsewhere. After all, what motivation is there to stay in a low-paying job in a financially unstable country, when you can get a stable job that pays well in a more stable place? I hesitate to use the phrase “brain drain”, only because it insinuates that no skilled or capable people will be left behind (that’s quite an insult). However, as demand for certain jobs and skills increases due to Covid-19, population decline and issues such as Brexit, it won’t be surprising to see more Zimbabweans in the working population packing up and leaving.

On the other side of this challenge lies opportunity. Remote work, previously rare and unpopular, has become a new normal due to the Covid-19 lockdown and restrictions. The past three years have shown that, while it has its limitations, it’s still possible to be productive while working virtually. You no longer need to be in America to work for an American company, and 2022 may see more Zimbabweans working remotely for companies and organisations that don’t have offices in the country.

Effects of climate change
On average, the past seven years were the hottest ever recorded. It was certainly brutally hot in 2021, with the rains only able to fully break the heat in December. What was previously a back-burner issue has become a pressing issue, with 2021’s United Nations Climate Change Conference’s (COP) 26th edition resulting in the Glasgow Climate Pact. Zimbabwe’s rainy season, originally meant to start in mid-to-late October, is starting later and later. The past two rainy seasons have been average to above average, with floods affecting Beitbridge, parts of the Eastern Highlands, Mashonaland Central and Midlands. Whilst some of the flooding in urban areas is due to blocked drains and poor planning, changes in Zimbabwe’s climate also bear some responsibility. The pattern of weather disruption will continue in 2022, with our summers — already unbearably hot — likely to get even hotter. A longer, wetter rainy season means a higher likelihood of a bumper harvest, but it also means a higher likelihood of destruction of infrastructure, disruption of economic activity and food insecurity.

The latter is a particular concern considering Zimbabwe is classified as a low-income, food deficit country. Although these changes in climate will affect the country as a whole, subsistence and commercial farmers would be acutely affected by erratic weather patterns. Our net income is less than USD$1 395 per person, and we still rely on food imports to feed our nation. Flooding or drought is a very real possibility, and without any concerted efforts to address and mitigate these, the chaos and uncertainty that comes with these weather events does not bode well.

March elections
By-elections are scheduled for 26 March 26 of this year. Twenty-eight parliamentary seats and 105 local council seats are up for grabs. Nominations for the elections haven’t been submitted at the time of writing, but the political theatre has already begun. Unfortunately, this activity will set the pace not just for the by-elections, but for the 2023 presidential elections next year.

For the opposition, the hope would be for different factions and parties to work through their differences and present a united front. Given the latest chapter in the drama surrounding Douglas Mwonzora, Nelson Chamisa and MDC, that’s not happening, and the in-fighting will continue past March 26 and set the pace for 2023.

Firstly, expect to see incentives and policies from the government in an attempt to curry favour with voters. These will be largely economic policies. There may be an announcement that civil servants will yet again get a bonus in foreign currency. There may be an attempt to curb inflation and bring the black market to heel. There may also be new regulations and restrictions introduced for campaigns in light of the ongoing pandemic — but don’t be surprised if these restrictions apply to some parties and not to others.

Of course, these predictions and insights are purely speculation. My three predictions aren’t meant to be taken as gospel truth or presented as an authoritative position. With speculative journalism you can get things right or completely wrong. More often than not predictions land somewhere in a hazy middle, but one thing that speculative pieces such as these always achieve is getting readers to stop, think and analyse background issues  that can become mainstream topics.

Muzenda is a writer and analyst. These weekly New Horizon articles, published in the Zimbabwe Independent, are co-ordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Chartered Governance and Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe (CGI Zimbabwe). — kadenge.zes@gmail.com or mobile: +263 772 382 852.

Recent Posts

Stories you will enjoy

Recommended reading

You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

NewsDay Zimbabwe will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.