Bridging policy formulation and implementation gap

The development results achieved have been sub-optimal and insufficient to spur the economy to expected levels of sustainable economic development mainly due to weak implementation capacity.


Zimbabwe has designed reasonably good policies, programmes, and blueprints that reflect visions for growth.

Thus, the country is not short of innovative ideas but implementation capacity remains the critical missing link.

However, what is lacking is the bridge between these policies and effective implementation.

In its four decades of existence as an independent state since 1980, Zimbabwe has come up with several economic blueprints aimed at promoting sustainable economic growth, employment, new wealth creation, national development, and poverty alleviation.

The development results achieved have been sub-optimal and insufficient to spur the economy to expected levels of sustainable economic development mainly due to weak implementation capacity.

According to the Africa Capacity Report produced and published by African Capacity Building Foundation in 2019 titled, Fostering Transformative Leadership for Africa’s Development, Zimbabwe’s Africa Capacity Index (ACI) stood at 46.1, indicating that the country has medium development capacity.

The Africa Capacity Index (ACI) provides a snapshot of the state of capacity in Africa.

It is a composite index computed from a quantitative and qualitative assessment of four sub-indices or indicator “clusters”.

These are the policy environment for capacity development cluster that considers the conditions that must be in place to make transformational change and development possible; the processes for implementation cluster that assesses the extent to which countries are prepared to deliver results and outcomes; the development results at country level cluster that refers to tangible outputs that encourage development; and the capacity development outcomes cluster that measures the change in the human condition.

The African Capacity Building Foundation 2015 Africa Capacity Report alluded that countries with higher implementation capacities tend to be more successful in transforming their economies, thus the higher the capacity level, the higher the values of industrial sector value-added – the impacts are contemporaneous and sustained over time.

Zimbabwe’s structural transformation will not occur without addressing the capacity conundrum.

Indeed, inadequate implementation capacity is a major challenge that constrains programmes and projects promoting inclusive economic growth, sustained development, and integration.

Therefore, the country needs to build the skills needed to turn ideas into reality, especially at the point of implementation starting right at the grassroots, going up.

To this end, the country needs to invest millions of dollars of financial support into capacity areas clustered into four main categories.

The categories include (i) operational capacity for holistic and effective results including institutional and human capacity as well as policies, systems and work processes to ensure that National Development Strategy 1, 2021-2025, is successfully implemented; (ii) change and transformative capacity which pays attention to transformative leadership, change readiness, ability for mindset shifts, and ability to innovate; (iii) composite capacity including strategic planning, results-based management as well as organizational and coordination capability to ensure that the targets and objectives of the National Development Strategy 1 are achieved in a quality and timely manner, with accountability exercised at all levels and for all stakeholders; and (iv) critical, technical and sector-specific skills for implementing the National Development Strategy 1 — which means having the required number of quality technical expertise in the public and private sectors as well as for non-state actors in areas such as trade, investment, and technology.

To enhance the success of an economic blueprint before launching it, the country needs to conduct a capacity needs assessment and develop workable implementation strategies that are specific to the unique needs of each province.

This will ensure that programmes are carefully targeted at the skills that are needed for putting ideas in motion on the ground.

The country can also leverage knowledge and learning to increase development effectiveness which seeks to increase the access to and use of knowledge for better articulation of capacity development strategies and programming.

This includes several activities such as the production and dissemination of fit-for-purpose, high-quality, and timely capacity development knowledge products.

This strengthens regional training institutions and foster training of trainer programs creating a multiplying effect and producing a critical mass of competent mid-level officers capable of filling senior positions in a country’s public administration and private organisations.

Zimbabwe can strengthen its implementation capacity by pursuing the following capacity-building models.

The models used can be classified into (i) individual capacity-building model, (ii) community capacity-building model, (iii) statewide capacity-building model, and (iv) organisational capacity-building model.

Individual capacity-building model: the idea behind this model is to mainly focus on developing the skills and knowledge that will enhance professionals’ capacity as individuals, using a variety of strategies and targeting different professional audiences and needs.

Training, mentoring, coaching, and networking are among the various means used to support this model.

Community capacity-building model: this model is community-centered focusing on sharing information and including communities when identifying priorities and solutions to community problems.

Community capacity is the combined influence of a community’s commitment, resources, and skills that can be deployed to build on community strengths and address community problems and opportunities.

Statewide capacity-building model: this involves supporting the state to ensure that it can plan, prioritise, mobilise and account for financial and human resources and deliver goods and services for the public.

It is however to be noted that the “state” is not a single, coherent entity as it includes a plethora of organisations, departments, agencies, councils, assemblies, and networks.

Organisational capacity-building model:  the focus here is for organisations and professionals working on development issues to have the opportunity and ability to develop individual knowledge, skills, competencies, and abilities; improve leadership, quality of service delivery, and problem-solving abilities; and assess and evaluate strategies through data sharing, networking, and communicating with stakeholders.

Zimbabwe can set up a capacity development fund.

The fund is proposed to be a unique mechanism for addressing the recurrent challenge of financing implementation capacity in the country.

The proposed funding mechanism, which will be designed, led, and managed by the country is imperative for transforming Zimbabwe as alluded in the National Development Strategy 1.

It will support the delivery of all capacity development interventions and unleash the full human and institutional potential while creating lasting opportunities for the acquisition of cutting-edge skills and effectively competing in the global economic and technological arena.

The goal of the capacity development fund is to complement the existing funding mechanisms while ensuring coordination and sustainability of financing at the national level.

Policymakers can also ensure that the country has a specific budget line for capacity development.

As an outcome of the maiden issue of the National Development Strategy 1, it is recommended for the policymakers to champion the revision of budget nomenclature to incorporate a specific budget line on capacity development. Such a proposal will call for an intensified domestic resource mobilization for the financing of capacity development interventions.

In conclusion, there is critical importance of strong implementation capacity since inadequate public sector capacity undermines policy effectiveness in the country.

In addition, the country needs to invest in the development of ‘soft’ skills which enhances confidence and leadership skills to define solutions to the country’s problems. Building the skills that the country requires to bridge the gap between policy formulation and implementation, is an ongoing exercise that Zimbabwe should continue to invest in.

  • Ronald Zvendiya is an independent economist. Feedback: [email protected]
  • *These weekly articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Chartered Governance & Accountancy institute in Zimbabwe. Email – [email protected]  and mobile – +263 772 382 852

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