SINCE African countries attained independence, there has been an over-emphasis on macro-economic strategies and econometrics in attempting to achieve economic growth.
BY TAPIWA GOMO
About seven decades after most African countries attained independence, most of them, if not all, have not achieved economic growth.
Many of their economic recovery blueprints have missed the important role of human behaviour in the effective implementation of economic strategies. Mathematical and economic models are useful in reviewing and projecting what may occur in an economy.
However, without factoring in the role of human behaviour, there are high chances that the projected outcome will not likely be achieved as the rest of the results depend on human commitment. In addition, economic strategies and models are on their own unable to change behaviour.
On November 16, President Emmerson Mnangagwa launched the country’s new five-year economic blueprint targeting an economic growth rate of five percent per year to uplift the country to an upper-middle income economy by 2030. The National Development Strategy (NDS1) 2021-2025 seeks to propel economic growth, improve the public sector and strategic infrastructure.
This is not the first time the country has produced such economic strategic frameworks and Zimbabwe is known for crafting among the best of these but they suffer stillbirth. This is because they do not take into account the human element which is more critical in the effective implementation of any plan.
Economic growth does not occur in laboratory-like conditions but requires a massive change in human behaviour and productive culture. As part of the baseline, the new strategy needs to take into account that economic growth will not be achieved unless the human behaviours that destroyed the economy are either changed or eradicated. That is one sure way of achieving economic growth.
There are three levels of mindset that need to change but at the core of these is the trust deficit that has culminated in this situation as a result of so many years of bad politics and policies.
The first is the leadership mindset, which in this case is responsible for the damage caused to our economy. The mentality that whatever is sourced within the country must be looted or taken out of the country, while seeking help from outside for development needs to stop.
Trust occurs when leadership has trust in its own systems with its own resources. Once that level of trust is restored, we can be rest assured that everyone else will support the economic strategy with the confidence of security for their investment. At the moment, there is no trust that investments are secure. The economic environment is gripped with fear of the unknown. No one trusts that their financial resources are safe — making it hard to make long-term investments.
The second level of mindset change is among our people. Bad policies and a bad economy have created a new “gangster” attitude and an informal investment mindset. It is a mindset that is accustomed to cutting corners, “conman” attitude and corruption even when none is necessary and a mentality that believes in political connections instead of business acumen to grow one’s business. It is common to hear people say they were unable to implement certain projects without the necessary political connections even when none are required.
A thriving culture of mistrust means that people are unable to trade among themselves. There is an aura of fear to lose investments. Economics is mathematical and scientific; it is also a game of rules and regulations. Once those are adhered to, with the national security effectively playing its part, you are rest assured that trust will be restored. Currently, the trust deficit continues to affect even the police force and the Judiciary.
These two mindsets have largely influenced the business community to the extent that it too feels that rules must be bent all the time in order for business to thrive. This is not only disturbing but disrupting as business is one of the cornerstones of economic growth.
It is because of this that mathematical and economic models are applied to project economic growth and yet their conduct is tempered by bad human behaviour. It has become a culture to offer unsolicited kickbacks to politicians while passing the cost to the end-user. Because such payments are not factored into the economic models it means the modelling is fed with wrong or insufficient data leading to false projections.
Ensuring a change of mindset is the role of leadership. Society tends to replicate the character of its leadership and change must happen from the top if the country is to move forward. The mindset that limits the country’s ability to move forward needs to be eliminated to enable national potential to be realised. Nation building is based on citizens’ character and this is why Japan — a less naturally endowed country — is a global economic giant today.
In the absence of the right mindset, all the natural resources Zimbabwe possesses will amount to nothing except for lining a few individuals’ pockets. This is not theoretical. A productive and positive mindset has an influence in how employees conduct themselves, how citizens trade, how markets behave and the general national performance and character.
The challenge is not that Zanu PF is unable to foster the right mindset but it has lost credibility. It is responsible for destroying the economy, for denying having played that role and for inculcating a culture of impunity. It will take a radical approach for it to instil the mindset required to turn around the economy.