Editorial Comment: Let’s reconfigure our development agenda

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube

Editorial Comment

AT the turn of the century, the once promising Zimbabwe made a fundamental political decision to sever ties with western powers who had, since colonisation, always pulled the strings in terms of the southern African nation’s economic and general development trajectory. When the country compulsorily grabbed land from the minority white farmers, it immediately sought to cement new and strong ties with rising giants from the east, specifically China, through a robust look-east policy.

While China immediately came to the party, there was something profoundly wrong with Zimbabwe’s reciprocity, mainly rooted in its policy inconsistencies. And years after, Zimbabwe may have lost the chance to raise itself from its self-made economic doldrums. Things have since drastically changed to a point that future growth prospects for this southern African nation are now blurrier than ever.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) president, Akinwumi Adesina, could not have highlighted this grim prospect any better when he, on the sidelines of the weekend Sadc meeting, sent out a distressing message regarding future African growth prospects in the wake of rising tensions among global powers.

Indicating that Africa’s growth projection would most certainly be revised downwards, Adesina is quoted as having said: “You have Brexit; you also have the recent challenges between Pakistan and India that have flared off there, plus you have the trade war between the United States and China. All these things can combine to slow global growth, with implications for African countries. I think the trade war has significantly impacted economic growth prospects in China and, therefore, import demand from China has fallen significantly and so demand for products and raw materials from Africa will only fall even further. It will also have another effect with regard to China’s own outward-bound investments on the continent.”

Despite the gloomy outlook, the AfDB chief said there was a silver lining on the dark clouds of future economic growth, if only Africa seriously looked within through initiatives such as the African Continental Free Trade Area, which seeks to remove non-tariff barriers to boost trade.

Fundamentally, Adesina said: “The countries that have always been facing lower volatilities have always been the ones that do a lot more in terms of regional trade and do not rely on exports of raw materials. The challenges cannot be solved unless all the barriers come down; free mobility of labour, free mobility of capital and free mobility of people.”

These sentiments could not have come at a better time for Zimbabwe, which has been struggling to find its feet economically, socially and politically. Despite Zimbabwe currently tagged as highly volatile, it can easily come to the party if it reconfigures its development agenda through thorough self-introspection.

At the moment, it appears looking east or anywhere else, for that matter, will not help Zimbabwe climb out of the hellhole. The country needs to quickly refresh its internal development priorities and concentrate on what it considers as competitive advantages.

Agriculture, for example, was for decades a given competitive advantage which the country curiously sidelined for mining. If most of our agricultural products, including beef, were a hit in Sadc and EU markets, should Zimbabwe not then revisit its agriculture policy to shore up growth prospects? Once the country establishes a firm footing in the region, it can only mean better prospects globally…Food for thought.