As long ago as 1997, Bloch and Robertson in Zimbabwe: Facing the Facts commented:
Zimbabwe currently has an estimated 2,6 million people potentially employable but not employed out of a total employable population estimated to approximate a little more than four million.
In other words, about 24% of the total population, irrespective of age or gender, and about 60 to 65% of the employable population is unemployed.
As it is estimated that the current cost of creating a single job within the formal sector of the economy averages $130 000, Zimbabwe would need almost $340 billion to cater to the present unemployed, or almost twenty times its gross domestic product (GDP).
And the situation progressively worsens, for each year about another 300 000 school leavers enter the job market, while only about 40 000 leave the workplace and, in recent years, only approximately 10 000 new jobs are created each year.
Thus, Zimbabwean unemployment annually increases by a further quarter of a million people.
As unemployment escalates and growth in GDP is minimal, per capita income declines and ever-greater numbers struggle for survival on incomes well below the poverty datum Line.
For empowerment through employment, massive economic growth is urgently needed and Zimbabwe only needs to open up with genuine investment opportunities for a huge inflow of capital to take place from the 10% or so of investment portfolios world-wide which have marked Zimbabwe as a possible opportunity for high risk, high yield investment.
Such investment will stimulate re-growth of the informal sector which will at least provide a subsistence level of living for up to 80% of the unemployed.
A large and relatively successful informal sector would be of socio-political significance, but would not ensure competitive economic growth.
For that, the formal sector would need to develop.
In theory, businesses should expand from the informal sector into the formal sector, as politicians expect and as economists have hoped for throughout the world.
However, recent research in Africa shows that negligible development of this kind actually takes place.
Impoverished informal sectors tend to remain impoverished and economically insignificant.
Harrison (2000) in Frese (ed): Success and Failure of Micro business Owners in Africa, A Psychological Approach showed that businesses which seek to enter the formal sector face direct costs of registration, employment costs of new skills and the need for knowledge and understanding of regulations and penalties, basic business practices etc.
The aspiring formal sector businessperson can no longer convert the day’s takings directly to the stomach (or the bladder) but must delay gratification and save funds for meeting the above expenses.
Only a small proportion of us have the fortitude to overcome the above problems and survive the average of 3,4 business failures prior to uncertain success.
Such persons can be identified by psychological assessment procedures, following which they should be trained with the important skills which will maximise their chances of success.
Investment in these people will pay off through their productivity and the jobs created for their employees.
Guidelines for developing oneself into a successful businessperson are provided by the rotary careers self-development handbook, which is available via e-mail for the nominal fee (proceeds to charity) of $3,00.
Contact, Rotary Club of Highlands: Peter Compton on 04-486790/1.
Empowerment, genuine empowerment, is desperately needed by the population of Zimbabwe.
Instead of indulging their pathetic dependency on taking over the few successful existing businesses by using the leverage of skin colour, those who purport to be interested in empowerment should advocate demolition of most of the regulatory machinery which forms part of the barrier to the formal sector and thereby give the new-business entrepreneur a chance.
Further, they should build the environment for such businesspeople by competing for investors with rival countries who are currently laughing with glee at Zimbabwe’s “51% disincentive!” and the “direct stop investment shop.”
Copies of David E Harrison’s (2000) paper are available free by e-mail.
Tel: 04-700643, 736675