HomeNews‘Mugabe not right person to spearhead Africa development’

‘Mugabe not right person to spearhead Africa development’

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ANALYSTS have queried if President Robert Mugabe was the right person to spearhead infrastructural development on the continent given how a formerly robust public infrastructure system in Zimbabwe has collapsed under his Zanu PF government administration.

by PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI

Mugabe, in his acceptance speech after his appointment as African Union (AU) chair last week, pledged to steer the continent’s infrastructural development drive and facilitate intra-Africa trade.

“During my tenure as chair, I will deliberately provoke your thoughts to pay special attention to issues of infrastructure, value addition and beneficiation . . . Numerous studies have pointed out that the lack of physical infrastructure and interconnectedness in Africa has hampered economic development,” Mugabe said.
However, University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Professor Eldred Masunungure said the call was part of a “wish list” that Mugabe would not be able to achieve in just one year.

“He can start the ball rolling, but one year is just too short to make an impact. This is a long-term development programme,” Masunungure said.
“Even with all the resources at the continental level, his tenure is just too short to steer the development of infrastructure. It’s simply not possible. It’s just part of a wish list.”

He said infrastructure development required large sums of money, adding the continent’s infrastructural landscape was at different stages of development, with South Africa boasting a well-developed infrastructure whereas Somalia and Equatorial Guinea had a few kilometres of tarred roads.

Political analyst Ernest Mudzengi said Mugabe’s speech pointed to the tragic contradictions in Africa where leaders did more talking than practical action on the ground.

“This is not unique to Zimbabwe, but it’s an African problem. We are good at putting things on paper, but we are not practical. Infrastructure in the country is decaying and there hasn’t been much effort to repair it.”

Mudzengi said although of late there had been efforts to repair some major highways in the country, it was surprising that the partnerships through which the reconstruction was being done were not pursued in the past.

Maxwell Phiri, another analyst, said the country’s infrastructure had been allowed to go to waste over many years with no meaningful investment and it would take massive effort to resuscitate it.

“The lessons we have in Zimbabwe is that if you don’t invest in infrastructural development, in the long run the cost of doing so will be very high,” he said.

Although Zimbabwe is renowned for crafting solid blueprints on development, failure of implementation has been the major weakness. Over the years, critical infrastructure, including roads, schools and health institutions, has taken a severe knock from the economic downturn experienced in the country.

In his speech, Mugabe, who is also the Sadc chairperson, said lack of good physical infrastructure for road, railway, sea and air transport sectors had impeded economic development in Africa.

He called on AU member states to work together and co-ordinate with partners committed to developing Africa’s infrastructure as envisaged in the continent’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).

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