THE political temperatures are beginning to rise, as elections draw closer. Very soon, the political arena will be inundated by manifestos spelling out each politician’s promise to the electorate.
By Tapiwa Gomo
It is controvertible that at the core of the manifestos will be the economy.
In modern politics, the economy is unquestionably seen as the answer to every question of life.
Industrialisation has brought everyone to towns and made everyone dependent on money sourced through trading labour and resources, hence, the economy has become the bedrock of everything. But is the economy really the answer to everything?
To answer this question requires that we define the concept in general terms.
An economy is a system according to which money and resources, industry, consumption of goods and services by different agents and trade of a society are organised.
It defines the practices, discourses, and material expressions associated with the production, use, and management of resources.
This is the rudimentary definition of the economy, but there is something glaringly missing in it.
It does not spell out the importance of existing, acquiring or creating wealth, the basis upon which economic principles are applied.
It assumes either the pre-existence of wealth or that in the absence of wealth or resources, economics is not applicable. I will leave that to economist to expound further.
The focus of my discussion today is to argue that one of the reasons African societies have failed to take off is because they have invested a lot of their attention on baseless economic policies instead of pursuing development.
The reasons for this are many, but chief among them is that the concept of development has been largely discussed and studied within the framework of poverty and its reduction.
In theory, development is now seen as a solution to poverty and that has framed and blinded our minds.
Along the concept comes donated non-productive funds from Western countries.
In practice, there is a huge difference between economics and development, though the two are complimentary but should never been seen as one or the same.
As stated earlier, economics is about management of resources, and development is about wealth acquisition, accumulation and creation.
Unless these differences are factored into national policies, it is inconceivable to see how an economically ailing country such as Zimbabwe can rise and rescue itself.
Zimbabwe needs to define its wealth acquisition policy first before an economic policy.
The prosperity of any society lies in the wealth it creates, acquires, accumulates and possesses and its ability to utilise it for the betterment of its people.
This is not rocket science.
If you look around – the individuals or families you consider successful – probably one or more of them were successful because they worked extra hard, they broke new ground, they took a risk at some point, they bent the rules, abused or stole from others or they applied unorthodox means to acquire their wealth.
What you now see as success is the management of that wealth.
Western countries broke new ground when they industrialised.
They took the risk by breaking away from monarchial and religious governments to establish democratic systems of governance.
In the case of the United States, it broke away from British colonial administration.
Both Europe and America, before becoming global moral police, they bent the rules, abused and stole from others in slave trade and colonisation of other countries.
America and Europe have become the most generous and are Africa’s largest donors not only because of what they took from Africa and other parts of the world, but because of how they have managed what they acquired to create their economies.
Recent success stories were not as clean either.
China undercut its domestic labour to lure western investors, undermined human rights to suppress dissent, sold cheap and poor products to third world countries in exchange for raw materials to feed their growing manufacturing industry.
The result is a China that has become a global economic giant that has unleashed hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty.
As the economy grew, labour is no longer as cheap in China, which is why there are looking to produce some of their hard labour products in Africa, where labour is still very cheap.
And tagging along are Western industries, which have been embedded in the Chinese economic system.
From whatever stand point we analyse these scenarios, two underlying factors endure; an extraordinary gut to be different and the ability to manage the wealth once it has been acquired.
Our approach to rebuilding Zimbabwe needs to be underpinned by these factors realising that we are no longer on a recovery path, but starting afresh.
We cannot recover what we never possessed.
Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa