Zimbabwe, a country that until a few years ago was self-sufficient in food, cannot now feed itself. A country that used to export to countries not only in Africa, but the rest of the world now doesn’t. Once, foreign currency flowed into the treasury, but not now. Infrastructure has degraded; roads, bridges, the electrical system and schools are crumbling. What was once a thriving and growing economy now has sunk into poverty. What has happened? And more importantly, what can be done to change Zimbabwe into a success story? Let’s look at the problems specifically.
Roads, bridges, highways and schools are in need of repair. If a country wants to grow, there has to be an infrastructure that allows for the free flow of people, goods and capital from one end of the country to the other. When these things are allowed to degrade, an economy comes to a halt as it has in Zimbabwe.
A modern economy needs power, yet the Zimbabwean Electrical Supply Authority cannot meet the country’s power demands. The Hwanze Thermal Power Station, one of the country’s two power plants, does not operate at full capacity due to a lack of spare parts and age of the machinery. It takes a steady and reliable source of power to build a stable economy, and currently Zimbabwe doesn’t have it.
Inflation is out of control. This will destroy investment in the country. Inflation not only distorts and destroys markets it has another negative effect. It has a corrosive impact on people. Despair and malaise are just two of the effects of runaway inflation on a population. This can rob a people of the will to work and invest, and worse, it robs them of hope for the future.
If entrepreneurs and investors are going to invest in a country, they have to have a stable government governed by the rule of law with independent courts. This is lacking in Zimbabwe. Political repression is legendary. Roving gangs roam the country punishing people viewed as enemies of the government. Land is expropriated without due process of law. Why would anyone invest in a country where everything they work for is at risk.
And yet, there is hope. Zimbabwe is an incredibly rich country with a high literacy rate. The products that were exported in the past were high quality. The country was not only self-sufficient in food, it exported food and goods to other countries, something that can happen again. The future could be bright.
Zimbabwe must repair and maintain its infrastructure. A system must be put in place that regularly checks and repairs roads, bridges, the electrical system and schools. Use of a Preventive Maintenance program – checking and upgrading something before it breaks or wears out – should be employed. Monies must be allocated on a regular basis through the governmental budgeting process so this can be done. All must be working efficiently if there is to be growth.
Inflation must be tamed. Price controls need to be eliminated, and spending has to be controlled in light of diminished income. Goods need to become available, either through trade with other nations or through domestic manufacturing. Too few goods means that those already in the country go up in price-hence inflation. The arbitrary printing of money must also cease.
Many of Zimbabwe’s current problems stem from the actions of the regime itself. These are “self-inflicted wounds.” Many countries worldwide have suffered with the recent world recession. Zimbabwe’s economic fall, though, preceded the current world recession by almost a generation. The responsibility for this economic disintegration lies with the government in Harare. However, the solutions to these problems must come from the people themselves. Zimbabwe does not belong to any other country. The country does not belong to the United States, China, or the United Kingdom, the UN or anybody else, but to all of its people regardless of race, religion, tribal affiliation or economic background. It is they who must come forward. Zimbabwe should realize that there are people, organizations and even governments that are willing to help her if they’re asked, but in the end-reform has to start with the people.
With these improvements, tourism would again be a significant contributor to the nation’s income, investors would come back and entrepreneurs would again find Zimbabwe a good to place to do business. Exports would also bring in foreign currency. Soon, unemployment would come down, and with these positive changes, Zimbabwe would once again becomes an economic leader on the continent.