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Zimbabwe needs to move beyond uncertainty

Opinion & Analysis
“Climate change in Zimbabwe. You can hear it on the banks of Lake Kariba up north and feel it in the fields of Beitbridge in the south. You’ll see it in the classrooms of rural Gokwe, where the success or failure of a small vegetable garden can stand between a young girl and an education. All over the country, you’ll hear people talking about it. There’s a spark in their words, when they speak about it. And there’s a reason why. Climate change is so powerful that in recent months it has affected the electricity supply, too. For some living in Zimbabwe, there’s been one shock after another,” says Catholic Relief Services.

guest column:Pearl Matibe

“Climate change in Zimbabwe. You can hear it on the banks of Lake Kariba up north and feel it in the fields of Beitbridge in the south. You’ll see it in the classrooms of rural Gokwe, where the success or failure of a small vegetable garden can stand between a young girl and an education. All over the country, you’ll hear people talking about it. There’s a spark in their words, when they speak about it. And there’s a reason why. Climate change is so powerful that in recent months it has affected the electricity supply, too. For some living in Zimbabwe, there’s been one shock after another,” says Catholic Relief Services.

After devastating Tropical Cyclones Idai and Kenneth—both signals of loss of resilience—it’s vital that Zimbabwe’s leadership, its people and public policy advocates interrogate the question of climate change, in particular, after the recently ended 74th United Nation General Assembly Climate Action Summit held in New York on September 23, 2019 and ahead of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (WBG) Fall 2019 Annual Meetings due to take place in Washington, DC from October 14 to 20, 2019.

In the context of climate change, the definition of resilience is how much shock, stress and pressure can you cope with before you cross over a tipping point? How many more cyclones, droughts, El Niños and erratic harvests before Zimbabweans are taken onto a path of no return?

What is “resilience”?

It’s not only about building infrastructure and making it stronger, it is about making the society stronger; it’s about making the economy stronger; and it’s about making the risk created by climate crises manageable. This is true no matter whether it is the Amazon forest, a financial system or any human being’s life.

Some 189 member countries will converge in Washington, DC from October 14-20 at the IMF-WBG Annual Meetings, including Zimbabwe — a country which desperately needs to build a resilient society.

Problem One—the injustice of poverty

The country will need to deal with the injustice of poverty; the status of peoples’ lives in Manicaland, Masvingo and affected areas is an injustice as a senior Oxfam representative said ahead of the 74th UNGA, “It’s about an absence of rights.”

As happened in the Sofala Province of Mozambique, Zimbabweans faced one of the worst droughts, then one of the worst cyclones Idai and then six weeks later to be hit by cyclone Kenneth. “How far are we from meeting the needs? Far short,” says the Oxfam representative: “Much money is received for mitigation and very little of it is given for adaptation and resilience.” According to the United Nations (UN) Environment Programme, “Reducing carbon emissions is no longer enough to halt the impacts of climate change. Many countries are realising it’s time to start adapting to a warming world.

The policy world is responding. The 2015 Paris Agreement includes, for the first time, a Global Adaptation Goal. Similarly, the 2017 UN Climate Conference in Bonn reinforced the same objective. Nations spanning all continents are now developing National Adaptation Plans (NAPs).”

Therefore, what needs to be pondered by Zimbabweans, its: What is more compelling, to build shiny new parliament buildings or investing in humanity; its people?

Those that cannot grasp that putting financial resources and promoting the resilience narrative as a top priority for Zimbabwe for the very communities that are at the frontline of these disasters, then all the talk about structural reforms, is just talk. That is why we are at a crossroads today and need to move serious financial resources into adaptation and resilience; even as work is done on mitigation — it requires serious government commitment.

Problem Two—Zimbabwe faces multiple grand challenges

“We’ve reached the warmest temperatures since the last ice age,” confirms the UN Climate Action Summit where 1-degree of warmer climate on Earth makes a tremendous difference. Zimbabwe is not ready for the next crisis.

Smallholder farmers and local communities need significant support to help them adapt to droughts since climate change is accelerating the loss of bio-diversity and increasing food insecurity. Another unanswered question is how will Zimbabwe and its Southern African Development Community (Sadc) leaders act urgently, quickly and increasingly on their fiscal budget allocations to support early warning, early action while leaving no-one behind?

Climate crisis matters not because it is a global issue, it matters because it’s a Zimbabwean humanity issue about the well-being of its people—this coming year and beyond 2020 is particularly critical if the country is to reverse some of the climate crisis losses.

Problem Three—the Paris Agreement

Country leaders need to build resilience, across the board, paralleling to depth of efforts while fighting the longer battles of climate crisis to create sustainable resilience for all.

Under the Paris Agreement, finance is a key commitment that Zimbabwe agreed upon as a priority. The paramount question is: Has Finance minister Mthuli Ncube leveraged financial resources in the past and will he in future budget allocations? If the finance minister Ncube is serious about the Paris Agreement — the path to climate neutrality — then, Zimbabwe needs a major paradigm shift because it will require a significant amount of societal education and sizable, crucial dialogue that could be one of the most important components of such a transition. What will be accomplished in terms of ambition, commitment and execution of activities at the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) in November 2020 is yet to be seen, but what is real is that Zimbabwe’s Finance minister will need to demonstrate actionable commitment as he makes way to the IMF-WBG 2019 Annual Meetings in Washington, D.C.

Since Zimbabwe was hard hit by cyclones, Ncube ought to have an effective budgetary plan for building a resilient Zimbabwe. There should be concerted efforts to ramp up activities to restore the country’s forests, increase budget allocations for climate, environment and landscape solutions that tackle bio-diversity and provide sustainable livelihoods on a truly large scale.

The country cannot deliver using the old paradigm assuming that things change incrementally to deliver on societal goals because this is an assumption usually based on the stability of all other factors.

Little has been stable in Zimbabwe.

What is evident today — is that after the cyclone climate crises — the affected areas were reduced to turbulence, not stability. For Zimbabwe, crises appear to be the new normal.

Because of this, it’s crucial to ask: How do you navigate a country, a community or a household in situations of stress?

Above all, it’s not a contested fact that resilience is a pre-requisite for foreign investment.

Will Zimbabweans attending the IMF-WBG annual meeting change this?

The truth is, it is no longer just about climate change or adaptation. It’s about building resilience and building capacity to manage unavoidable climate crises. What could help change this is if those attending the IMF-WBG annual meetings make their participation result in effective contribution to structural policy and budgetary reforms for Zimbabwe’s resilience.

Expected to attend are representatives from Zimbabwe’s civil society; individuals from African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (Afrodad), interim head of programme and senior policy analyst debt management, Tirivangani Mutazu; policy analyst, Yungong Theophilus Jong; Precious Chinanga, student of Christian Movement of Zimbabwe; acting national coordinator, Otillia Matimba, and advocacy coordinator of Thomi Africa.

Participating as observers are African Capacity Building Foundation director, Bakary Kone; chairperson and executive secretary, Emmanuel Nnadozie; Macroeconomic and Financial Management Institute of Eastern and Southern Africa Executive Director, Michael Atingi-Ego, Public Relations Manager, Gladys Jadagu; director, Sehliselo Mpofu and Damoni Kitabire, African Development Bank Group’s country manager.

As guests are head, risk and audits, Luckmore Hanyire of Solten Financial Services University of Zimbabwe Professor of Economics and Senior Lecturer Albert Makochekanwa; CBZ Holdings Group chief executive, Blessing Mudavanhu, and FBC Bank Limited managing director, Webster Rusere.

Thousands of global development professionals will meet their peers who live and breathe ending poverty. In total, the IMF-WBG meetings will be attended by more than 5 587 attendees who include 3 595 guests, 930 individuals representing civil society organizations, among them, 611 observers. From the Southern African Development Community, there are more than 80 attendees; South Africa (69), Botswana (6), Tanzania (6), and Zambia (3)—in comparison, Zimbabwe a total of about 14 participants.

Yes, it’s much easier to invest in a bridge or infrastructure than to invest in building human capacity.

These IMF-WBG Annual Meetings are the platform for African youth leaders, innovators and influencers to highlight the impact of fragility and loss of resilience in human development, women’s’ empowerment as an accelerator of transitions and the importance of finance in their countries.

The Science is clear

Clearly, a need to propagate new and increased action is a must. The science is very clear that country leaders now need to deliver on sustainable development goals, integrated with climate change to building resilience. There must be equal and increased urgency to adapt to climate change without leaving anyone behind.

Zimbabwe will need a bold, realistic, actionable agenda. An agenda that focuses on the need to act quickly and urgently. An integrated approach is essential, not allowing resilience, mitigation and adaption to continue as separate silos. When the ministers of finance, development professionals and the Board of Governors of IMF and WBG meet, they ought to be serious about sizable commitments to moving budget allocations to building resilience. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s 1,5 degree Celsius Report tells us that if we hit 2 degrees Celsius, we’re looking at an additional 62 – 467 million people who could be facing additional poverty in the world.

Twice each year, the Boards of Governors of the WBG and IMF hold meetings centered on poverty reduction, climate change, international economic development and finance. Experts will present on technologies that change economic landscapes and cutting edge research by IMF Staff on topics such as trade, big data, taxation and central bank risk management. On October 8, 2019 the IMF managing director, Kristalina Georgieva gave a curtain-raiser speech which focused on the state of the global economy and set the stage for the annual meetings in Washington, DC emphasising fiscal policy, jokingly saying, “IMF—It’s Mostly Fiscal!”

Early warning, early action, and leaving no one behind to build a resilient Zimbabwe is a must.